Fon du Lac Tribe opens pharmacy in Minneapolis 8-07

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa,
which has offered free prescription drugs to American Indians for
almost two decades on its northeastern Minnesota reservation, was
slated to open a pharmacy in Minneapolis during August.

The pharmacy, which will provide free prescriptions to American
Indians enrolled in any tribe, will be the first in the country
operated by a tribal government outside its reservation boundaries,
said Phil Norrgard, director of human services on the reservation.
Officials expect the Minneapolis pharmacy - Mashkiki Waakaaigan,
which means “medicine house” in Ojibwe - to serve about 4,000
patients a year compared with about 2,300 annually at the Center for
American Indian Resources in Duluth, Norrgard said. He isn't worried
about the facility being underused.

“You don't have to advertise free drugs,” Norrgard said.

The tribe also dispenses drugs at a pharmacy at its Min No Aya Win
Clinic in Cloquet.

The pharmacies don't dispense schedule II drugs, including narcotics,
a decision made some time ago by Fond du Lac leaders. But most other
drugs, including diabetic supplies, blood pressure medication and
antibiotics, are available.

Tribal governments can buy prescription drugs wholesale from the
federal government at a 40 percent discount, Norrgard said. The tribe
also aggressively seeks reimbursements from those who do have health
insurance, and during most years the pharmacy's books come close to
balancing.

Health workers found that Fond du Lac band members living in the Twin Cities area
were making trips back to the reservation just to get prescriptions
filled, Norrgard said. And the Duluth pharmacy has outgrown its
offices and is undergoing a renovation. Part of the remodeling will
make room for a robotic prescription filling machine that counts and
dispenses the 200 most common drugs at the pharmacy.

Prescriptions filled at the tribal pharmacies are increasing 5
percent to 15 percent each year. Between 300 and 350 prescriptions
are filled daily at Min No Aya Win Clinic, and another 200 to 300 at
the Duluth pharmacy. Costs for drugs alone are budgeted at $2.3
million for 2007, Norrgard said.

The new pharmacy is near the Minneapolis American Indian Center on
East Franklin Avenue.

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Information from: Duluth News Tribune, http://www.duluthsuperior.com
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