PHARMACY

Petition drive seeks to overturn N.D.’s pharmacy ownership restriction

BY Jim Frederick

BISMARCK, N.D. 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 national-chain competitors like Walgreens, Target Stores and Wal-Mart from selling prescriptions in the state. The state legislature defeated a move earlier this year to repeal the ban on non-pharmacist 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. North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership restriction, on the books since 1963, is the only such legal barrier to ownership in the U.S. Consumer advocates argue 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,” asserts 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 asserts 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.

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CAORC to host press briefing on organized retail crime

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON When most people think of organized crime, they imagine gun battles in the streets of Chicago during the Prohibition era, but some of its biggest victims are retail pharmacies.

The Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime announced that it would have a press conference at noon on Wednesday to discuss the role of federal law enforcement in combating organized retail crime. The conference will take place before a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on the subject.

Organized retail crime involves the theft of large quantities of goods from retailers and the sale of those goods through pawn shops, flea markets and online. It causes losses of tens of billions of dollars annually and puts consumers at risk of using mishandled and adulterated goods.

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FDA rejects expanded use of Pegintron

BY Alaric DeArment

KENILWORTH, N.J. The Food and Drug Administration has rejected an approval application for an additional use for a hepatitis C drug.

Schering-Plough Corp. announced Friday that it had received a complete response letter – an FDA notice of rejection – for Pegintron (pegylated interferon alfa-2b) as a treatment for stage 3 malignant melanoma. The FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee had recommended approval of the drug for the disease by vote of 6 to 4 in October.

Schering-Plough said it would work with the FDA to respond to the agency’s concerns. The drug is already approved for treating chronic hepatitis C in combination with Schering-Plough’s Rebetol (ribavarin).

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