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Patrick Springer, Published August 21 2009

Wal-Mart offers discount drugs to North Dakotans through mail

Wal-Mart’s generic prescription drug discounts aren’t available from any of its 10 supercenters in North Dakota because of the state’s pharmacy ownership law.

But Wal-Mart is sweetening its discount program for mail-order prescriptions by offering a 90-day supply of 300 generic prescriptions for $10 with free mail delivery throughout North Dakota.

The mail-order program will provide the first access for North Dakota consumers to Wal-Mart’s $4 generic prescription program, since no Wal-Mart stores in North Dakota have their own pharmacy.

A spokesman for independent pharmacists in North Dakota said the marketing program isn’t unusual, since consumers already have access to a wide variety of mail-order prescription drug services.

“This really is nothing new in terms of a new service being offered,” Mike Schwab, executive vice president of the North Dakota Pharmacists Association, said Thursday. “Wal-Mart actually is one of the last entities to offer mail-order prescriptions in the country.”

The offer, also available in Minnesota, isn’t exclusive to North Dakota. Eventually, it will extend to all 50 states, said Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz.

“This is really an extension of our $4 generic prescription drug program,” Wertz said. “I do know for a fact that many North Dakota residents who live near the border drive to Wal-Marts in Minnesota to fill their prescriptions.”

The Wal-Mart in Fargo has Prairie Pharmacy, owned and operated by three independent pharmacists. Wal-Mart and other chains have been vocal critics of the North Dakota law that requires pharmacies to be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state.

“Our $10 mail-delivery prescription program is a reflection of Wal-Mart’s commitment to drive unnecessary costs out of the health care system so North Dakota residents can live healthier, better lives,” said Arch Allison, Wal-Mart’s North Dakota market manager.

Wal-Mart touts its generic drug discounts as helping to lower prescription drug costs, citing a study attributing a drop in prices to the “Wal-Mart effect.”

Independent pharmacists in North Dakota have countered that chain discount programs are “loss leaders,” and the state’s overall prescription prices are among the lowest in the nation. A legislative effort to repeal North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law failed earlier this year, and opponents said they might try at the ballot box next year.

For information on WalMart’s generic prescription drug program, consumers can call (800) 2REFILL or visit www.walmart.com/pharmacy.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522