The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy recently sent a memo to pharmacists because of a new state law that includes the language, “The board shall require pharmacists and pharmacies to make available to patients information on sources of lower cost prescription drugs, including information on the availability of the website established by the Board of Pharmacy.” This is an example of what happens when well-intentioned legislators try to solve a problem without educating themselves about the source of the problem.

Pharmacies have little to no control over the price of prescription medications. The drug manufacturers and wholesalers determine the price that the pharmacy pays for the drugs, and pharmacy benefit managers determine what the patient pays and what the pharmacy gets paid. The pharmacies often don’t know how much they are paid as the payments they receive from pharmacy benefit managers can arrive several months later and are often manipulated based on “performance” and other mysterious factors. In case you haven’t noticed, independent, chain and health system community pharmacies are shuttering their doors even as they fill more prescriptions.

Community pharmacists are often the most accessible health care professional available to patients and in many instances the only reasonably accessible source of health care and health information for Minnesota’s underserved communities. I am very disappointed that our legislators and Gov. Tim Walz would enact this or any legislation without consulting the experts who can inform their legislative process. If they want to provide health care value to their constituents, they should create legislation that provides fair and equitable payment structures to pharmacies for prescriptions and pharmacist-provided services that improve patient health outcomes and lower long-term health care costs. If they want to inform their constituents about saving on prescription drugs, they should require the organizations that control the cost and pricing of medicines to do so.

Jason Varin, Eden Prairie

The writer is a pharmacist.


Lots of deaths, but add perspective

While there are few topics that are more divisive these days than guns and gun ownership, I think it is important to focus on facts to keep things in perspective rather than rely on our initial emotional reaction (“My priority is my kids, not my guns,” Readers Write, Nov. 26). Two facts in particular: the actual amount of influence of the gun lobby compared to other dangerous industries, and the actual danger posed by firearms.

A recent letter writer expressed concern over supposed bribes to lawmakers by the National Rifle Association, which dominates the political discussion on guns, but it is important to understand that as a lobbying group it actually has very little power. According to Open Secrets, the entire gun rights lobby spent $8.16 million this year, while, for example, the beer, wine and liquor lobby spent $21.85 million. While guns unfortunately claim roughly 40,000 lives per year, alcohol claims around 88,000 deaths per year, and yet the product gets celebrated in Super Bowl advertising.

While we are all saddened by any sort of mass shooting, these events are quite rare, despite public perception. Rather than the supposed hundreds of events each year, if a mass shooting is counted as an incident in which four or more people die, excluding armed robbery or gang violence, it’s far less. According to Mother Jones, the number of mass shootings since Columbine in 1999 stands at 89.

Payton Powell, South St. Paul


Don’t assume the worst in voters’ lack of support for Mayor Pete

In a recent commentary, Brian Malloy stated that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg faces a disadvantage in his run for the presidency. His disadvantage? Being gay (“Mayor Buttigieg, a man, faces a disadvantage,” Opinion Exchange, Nov. 27).

Every candidate is disadvantaged in some way — real or perceived — as is every American. Poverty, poor education, gender, arrest record, skin color, ethnicity, age, being raised by a single parent, espousing a certain religious tradition and even occupation are only a small part of a long list of disadvantages that exist for people.

All of those disadvantages can also be advantages, depending on the situation. Mr. Malloy seems to not understand that fact. And for him to imply that disillusioned gay Democrats and independents may not vote next November because Democratic candidates are hiding behind sexism and not bigotry against his sexual orientation in dismissing Buttigieg as a viable presidential candidate is myopic.

Mr. Malloy is also selling gay Americans and all Americans short on our reasons for voting for a person or voting at all.

Racism and bigotry are human conditions that have been with us forever. And they will continue to be a reality, in varying degrees, until the end of time.

In electing our presidents, those flaws are always in play for American voters. It was said at the time that Americans would never elect a Catholic (John F. Kennedy), a divorced man (Ronald Reagan) or a black man (Barack Obama). Yet, we overcame these prejudices and voted these people into our nation’s highest office. Not necessarily the first time, but eventually we do.

We hear those same types of sentiments again today. “Americans will never elect a president who is a woman or gay.” Tomorrow it will be we will never elect a person who is Jewish, Muslim, Somali, Asian, bisexual or lesbian. In the end, I believe only a fraction of Americans vote their prejudices. The rest of us vote for someone we feel most aligns with our political beliefs and who we want to lead our country for the next four years.

Americans care about numerous issues and possess an infinite number of prejudices. Few people vote for a person based on one view or characteristic (except maybe, and sadly, if that person is a Democrat or Republican).

Do we always get it right? Maybe not. Sometimes we voice our disapproval and vote presidents out of office after one term, sometimes we vote our approval and give them four more years.

American voters should get more credit for the fact that numerous factors go into those we choose to vote for. Suggesting that Americans reduce their vote based on one issue or prejudice, or won’t vote at all because of a real or perceived slight, is shallow and cynical.

As a gay man, I could care less that Pete Buttigieg is gay or a man. May the best person win.

Steve Schulz, Minneapolis


Farewell to a fine musician

It was with heavy sadness that I read the obituary by Jon Bream on the passing of Minnesota-based soul singer Willie Walker (“Beloved Cities soul singer was ‘sweeter than honey from a bee,’ ” Nov. 22). Walker has left behind a legacy that helped shape the development of the blues, while lending the power of his voice to help shape the social development of the nation.

His haunting collaborative effort with Paul Metsa and the Sounds of Blackness on the 2018 protest song, “Ain’t Gonna Whistle Dixie Anymore,” marked the beginning of a new era for the power of music in fighting racism in America.

Willie Walker will be missed.

Doug Nemanic, Minneapolis



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