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Pharmacy Ownership Law — North Dakota

| Written by ILSR Admin | 1 Comment | Updated on Oct 23, 2014 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

At Forman Drug, in Forman, North Dakota (pop. 509), “We know almost everyone who walks in the door,” says Nathan Schlecht, the pharmacist and owner.

North Dakotans are used to pharmacists like Schlecht, and used to having pharmacies in small towns like Forman. In North Dakota, there are no Walgreens or Walmart pharmacies. Instead, North Dakotans get their medications from the 171 independent and locally-owned pharmacies throughout the state. This is no accident: It’s the result of a forward-thinking policy choice, the Pharmacy Ownership Law, that since 1963, has given North Dakotans pharmacy care that outperforms care in other states on every key measure, from cost to access.

In North Dakota, prescription drug prices are more affordable than in two-thirds of all states. Pharmacies are more plentiful, with more per capita than in neighboring South Dakota, Minnesota, or nationally, and they’re more broadly distributed; North Dakota’s rural areas are 51 percent more likely to contain a pharmacy than similarly-populated areas of South Dakota. And in general, independent pharmacies provide higher quality care, studies and surveys of customer satisfaction find.

North Dakota reaps economic benefits, too, from this local ownership. Without the Pharmacy Ownership Law, a 2014 report from ILSR estimates, about 70 of North Dakota’s independent pharmacies would close. Chain pharmacies headquartered around the country and out-of-state mail order companies would fill the gap, and ILSR estimates that direct economic losses to the state’s economy would be at least $17 million, and as high as $29 million, without accounting for indirect impacts such as lost tax revenue.

Instead of focusing on corporate profits, North Dakota’s policy prioritizes health care, and the state’s residents are the ones who benefit.



North Dakota Century Code 43-15-35 (e) – Enacted in 1963

The applicant for such permit is qualified to conduct the pharmacy, and is a licensed pharmacist in good standing or is a partnership, each active member of which is a licensed pharmacist in good standing; a corporation or an association, the majority stock in which is owned by licensed pharmacists in good standing; or a limited liability company, the majority membership interests in which is owned by licensed pharmacists in good standing, actively and regularly employed in and responsible for the management, supervision, and operation of such pharmacy

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  • Roberta B.

    I grew up in North Dakota (where one of my relatives was a pharmacist and owned a drugstore), and have lived in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota for several years. FYI, my parents were also independent business owners, albeit not in the retail sector.

    For 16 years, I lived in a neighborhood near downtown Minneapolis. From my apartment, I had two independent pharmacies located approximately the same distance (one-half mile) in different directions. Unfortunately, these were two of only few independent pharmacies left in Minneapolis. At one time downtown Minneapolis alone had two Walgreen’s drugstores (one has since closed), and CVS opened near my old neighborhood in recent years, allegedly with the existence of a public subsidy.

    In 2008 I married, and my husband and I purchased a 1911 house in St. Paul, where old homes are often more affordable and property taxes are lower. Although I love our house, there is not any retail within walking distance, and the pharmacies that are a short driving distance away are chains, two in grocery stores (Cub and Rainbow), one Walgreen’s, and one CVS.

    My solution? I chose an IBA-member pharmacy located approximately halfway between where I live and work. This is somewhat inconvenient, but if life were primarily about convenience, it wouldn’t be worth living. Convenience has destroyed so many of the good things about America, from personal privacy (using debit cards instead of cash and checks; I too am guilty) to independent businesses.