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Jayme Steig, West Fargo, Published January 18 2009

Is ND pharmacy a valued profession?

There is an aspect to the pharmacy ownership law debate that has been overshadowed by the cloud of cheap generic medications and whether big box stores should be able to own a pharmacy instead of having at least 51 percent owned by a pharmacist. That aspect is whether a pharmacy is a valued profession or simply a commodity such as groceries or lumber, as some like to compare to pharmacy.

One of the reasons I chose to become a pharmacist, and to stay in North Dakota upon graduation, was the professional services that I am trained to deliver. I can, and do, provide immunizations, health screenings, diabetes education and medication therapy management in my practice because I practice in an environment that encourages me to do so. I coordinate a statewide diabetes management program provided primarily by pharmacists. I do not know if any of this would have been possible without the pharmacy environment in North Dakota. I am positive it would have been more difficult if there was no ownership law in North Dakota.

I have respect for pharmacists who work for companies such as Walgreens and Wal-Mart. I know they do the best they can to provide quality care in the environment in which they are placed. I simply argue that the environment to provide high-quality patient care is significantly better in North Dakota, due in large part to the fact that pharmacists control that environment and not corporate officers’ focus primarily on stock price.

All I ask is that the residents and Legislature of North Dakota consider pharmacy as a profession like accountants, lawyers, dentists, and others and not as a commodity such as gas, lumber and groceries when debating the pharmacy ownership law.


Steig is owner of Frontier Pharmacy Services Inc., West Fargo.