Pharmacy Ownership Law — North Dakota

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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Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.