Consumer group launches drive to end state’s ownership restriction
BISMARCK, N.D. —Since the early 1960s, a restrictive ownership law in North Dakota has kept most of the nation’s chain pharmacy operators on the outside looking in. But pressure is mounting on state lawmakers to open the borders to outside competition.
A North Dakota consumer group has launched a new petition drive to overturn a unique, 46-year-old law that requires pharmacies in the state to be majority-owned by a pharmacist.
The law, which is similar to restrictions imposed on pharmacies in Canada, effectively prohibits such national-chain competitors as Walgreens, Target and Walmart from selling prescriptions in the state. The state legislature defeated a move earlier this year to repeal the ban on nonpharmacist ownership, prompting a group called North Dakotans for Lower Prescription Drug Prices to redouble its efforts to end the restriction through a statewide petition drive.
According to North Dakota secretary of state Al Jaeger, the group will need at least 12,844 signatures from state voters to get the issue on a statewide ballot in November 2010. Consumer advocates expressed confidence they’ll have more than enough names on a petition to bring the proposal up for a vote next fall.
North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership restriction, on the books since 1963, is the only such legal barrier to ownership in the United States. Consumer advocates argued it keeps drug prices artificially high by curbing competition, despite assertions from the North Dakota Pharmacists Association that the state’s consumers pay less than the national average for prescription drugs.
“It’s time this law was changed so 600,000 people can benefit from lower prescription drug prices,” asserted Tamara Ibach, a spokeswoman for the campaign working to overturn the law.
“As it stands,” she noted earlier this year, “the current law benefits…approximately 158 independent pharmacists who own drug stores.”
Arguing in favor of the restriction is the North Dakota Pharmacists Association. The group’s EVP, Mike Schwab, asserted that the $4 generic drug discount prices offered by some national chains are misleading because they mask higher costs for other drugs and merchandise.
One national chain, CVS Caremark, gets a pass on the restriction via a grandfather clause, since CVS operated pharmacies in the state prior to passage of the pharmacy-ownership law in 1963.
Hy-Vee names new president
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.
The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.
Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.
Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics
NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.
Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.
“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”
It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .