The New Pharmacy

Photography by: Angela Wyant
The New Pharmacy
"As one of the largest compounding pharmacies in the country, we have dealt with doctors of all disciplines, including M.D.s, D.O.s and N.D.s," says Bob Bishop, a compounding pharmacist at ApothéCure. "Most of the physicians we deal with use a more functional complementary approach to medicine. However, we formulate and compound any medication a doctor may prescribe for his or her patients. Because of the nature of what people demand, we have settled in the middle."

When a study released by the National Institutes of Health revealed that the combination of estrogen and progestin in Hormone Replacement Therapy could increase the risk of heart disease, many women asked for an alternative that carried fewer risks. In response, pharmacists at ApothéCure compounded natural HRT formulas.

the big box
While many shops, such as Willner Chemists in New York, prefer a smaller scale of operations, Elephant Pharmacy in Berkeley, Calif., has plans to become the first chain of large-scale integrative drugstores. "What Whole Foods is to Safeway, Elephant is to Walgreens," says Stuart Skorman, Elephant's chief executive officer. The success of Whole Foods, which Skorman helped create, made him realize there was a void in "big box" pharmacies that offered both Eastern and Western methods of healing.

Elephant's flagship store includes almost everything you would find in a conventional pharmacy, along with herbal and dietary supplements, and natural cosmetics and body-care products. But the store's biggest selling point is its focus on education, which has been incorporated into every facet of the shopping experience. This includes fact sheets that give a rundown of an item's pros and cons, and books placed adjacent to products. A staff of experts such as ayurvedic doctors, herbalists, acupuncturists and massage therapists are at the store to give advice every day, and a classroom accommodates as many as 60 people for lectures and workshops on topics like "Qi Gong for the Heart" and "Reducing Your Cholesterol Naturally."

"Our brand is education," says Skorman. "We're here to tell the truth so you can make the choice that's best for your own health and your own beauty."

coming full circle
Every day at Ross Valley Pharmacy in Larkspur, Calif., Lofholm encounters patients with questions about how to better care for themselves: What's a good vitamin? Should I take fish oil? How about baby aspirin? "We [pharmacists] need to fill this need," he says.

In addition to being a resource for health answers, Lofholm predicts that the integrative pharmacy of the future will routinely offer cutting-edge technology, such as lasers that shine on the skin to detect antioxidant deficiencies or saliva testing that identifies conditions which can be minimized through supplements. For those living in places without an integrative pharmacy, changes may be in the works. "Just as the phenomenon of natural-food [supermarkets] wasn't on anyone's radar screen 20 years ago, this is what you'll see with integrative pharmacies," says Precious. Meanwhile, current venues offer some services and products through their Web sites.

Beyond creating a new model for the proactive consumer, integrative pharmacies hope to restore traditions of healing that have been overshadowed by a focus on pure science.

"It's coming full circle," says Precious. "Now we are picking through both worlds and asking, What is the best that Western medicine has to offer? What is the best that traditional medicine has to offer? It allows for a whole new paradigm of thinking about health and healing."