New Compounding Pharmacy Brings Customized Care to RI Patients
by Wendy Lewis
For individuals that must take medications, finding ones that meet specific needs, such as managing a gluten allergy, difficulty swallowing or an aversion to certain tastes, can be a daunting, if not impossible task. That’s where compounding pharmacies, like Toll Gate Apothecary, in Warwick, can help. Unlike large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturers, they create products customized for each individual patient.
Eileen Wynne, president and pharmacist in charge of Toll Gate Apothecary, and Tracy Bejbl, CEO and pharmacy technician, opened the business on Toll Gate Road in September 2016. The two, who were former coworkers at another compounding pharmacy, decided to embark on their own venture when that business closed after many years. Bejbl, manager of the former company, had become familiar with the day-to-day operations of the compounding pharmacy business and the communities they had served. Together with Wynne, who creates the products on-site according to physicians’ specifications, they continue to meet the needs of patients in Rhode Island and its surrounding areas.
Theirs is one of only a few woman-owned compounding pharmacies in the country. Bejbl says the partnership works well because each excels in their own area of expertise. “I think that’s what makes us gel together,” she says. An additional full-time pharmacist, a per diem pharmacy technician and a full-time driver complete the team.
Compounding pharmacies work in partnership with physicians and traditional pharmacies to create personalized medication solutions. Sometimes a patient needs a type of medication that simply doesn’t exist, even at large traditional pharmacies, says Bejbl. When this happens, the pharmacies reach out to Toll Gate Apothecary to create it. “A lot of people never hear of compounding until they need it,” she says. For these specialized services, the cost is surprisingly reasonable and some are covered by insurance. Toll Gate Apothecary provides a self-assessment form on their web site that patients can print, fill out and bring to their doctor.
For patients that are allergic to ingredients found in many prescription and over-the-counter medications, compounding pharmacies can create versions which are allergen-free. Wynne and her staff serve many patients that must have products that retain their active ingredients yet are free of gluten, lactose, dyes and other allergens. Furthermore, Wynne says, because compounded products are created in small batches as needed, fewer preservatives are required and formulas and dosages can be adjusted with each batch as patient’s needs change.
Another benefit of compounded products is that they can help patients remain compliant. Pediatric medications, for example, are more acceptable to children when they are made in lollipop form with tasty flavorings. Senior patients that have difficulty swallowing may require medications in liquid form. Other medications may best be delivered as gels, creams, or suppositories. Compounding pharmacies can even custom-create veterinary medications.
Toll Gate Apothecary, like all compounding pharmacies, must adhere to pharmacy regulations that are even more stringent than those of traditional pharmacies. Regulations are set by the State Boards of Pharmacy and guidelines are enforced by the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP). Toll Gate Apothecary only uses ingredients from FDA-registered and inspected facilities and regularly tests its compounds with an outside testing laboratory.
Among the many products that Toll Gate Apothecary creates, Bejbl says they are perhaps most proud to offer personalized bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) products for women and men, and pain medication for patients in hospice care. It is very satisfying, she says, to know they are helping to support others through some of life’s greatest transitions.
Bejbl and Wynne are seeing a growing demand for compounded products as people become increasingly conscious of their health, food ingredients and the products they use and ingest. To help meet this need, Toll Gate Apothecary will be expanding its offerings with sterile items such as eye drops, eardrops and injectables. Only a few compounding pharmacies in the state currently offer compounded sterile products.
Even as the business expands, Bejbl and Wynne are dedicated to keeping Toll Gate Apothecary a patient-accessible, friendly pharmacy. They enjoy meeting and talking with patients face-to-face and working closely with physicians to help deliver first-rate patient care.
Wendy Lewis is regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.