The new pharmacy: Revenue streams, Part I


If you're a pharmacist looking for another route to success, satisfaction, and reward, start here.

Mark BurgerThe Atlantic arrived in my mailbox. The title that caught my eye was: “The Evolution of Alternative Medicine.” I wasn't hopeful. As a pharmacist who practices compounding and functional medicine, I was ready for the usual slam: "It's not science!" "It's snake oil." “There is no 'proof.'” "It's just Big Supplements making $$$$ off unsuspecting people," etc.

Except it wasn't. The subtitle read: "When it comes to treating pain and chronic disease, many doctors are turning to treatments like acupuncture and meditation - but using them as part of a larger, integrative approach to health."

A perfect lead-in for what I propose to offer as Part I in a series that I hope will inspire pharmacists who are:

A. Beginning their careers and seeking an alternative to chain-store pharmacy;

B. Older pharmacists who are on the other side of that career choice and looking for alternatives; or

C. Members of Choice A who want to partner with members of Choice B and really do some damage as a Choice C Team.

See also: Drugs or lifestyle changes? Are pharmacists pill-happy?

Why me?

Why me? Well, I have a relatively rare type of practice that melds independent/compounding/functional pharmacy into one practice site. We compound. We teach. We sell professional-grade supplements, vitamins, herbs, nutrition, homeopathy (no OTCs). We schedule and charge for consultations in 15-minute chunks.

We have weekly health seminars that draw 20-50 people, and we charge admission. We sponsor and promote prescribers when they want to give a seminar, and we often give them together: Pharmacist + Prescriber. We act as a clearinghouse, of sorts, for the functional medicine practitioners in our area.

I hope to awaken in you some interest in this type of practice, so that together we may salvage this noble profession of ours. Really.

See also: 2014 Visionaries


Start here

Here's what I propose.

  • Read the article in The Atlantic ( to get a sense of the paradigm shift that is going on - especially if you think this is NOT happening.

  • Keep reading. They didn't cover this in pharmacy school or medical school. You probably need some refreshers on normal physiology (à la Guyton), biochemistry, microbiology, epigenomics, and normal GI physiology.

  • Start to question the Pharma-sponsored ads and columns you read in your pharmacy mags ... ditto, if you read medical journals.

  • Check out Dr. Marcia Angell's book,The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. (Random House, 2004, ISBN 9780375508462; Marcia Angell was the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine). This is where divorce comes in.

  • Consider opening your own practice. I’m serious. You don't necessarily need a pharmacy, but if you must have one, a compounding, cash-only, independent pharmacy would be ideal. If you need the “traffic,” ask an independent if you can rent/use space in his/her pharmacy. The indie might welcome you as an added benefit for patients.

  • Subscribe to some functional medicine newsletters, such as Dr. Frank Schallenberger's Second Opinion, Dr. Fred Pescatore's Logical HealthAlternatives, or Dr. Jonathan Wright's Nutrition and Healing. There are many good ones.

  • Purchase the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, put out by the publisher of the Pharmacists' Letter, or subscribe to Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. It's inexpensive, considering the solid information it provides. You won't be sorry.

  • If you are still young and have paid off your pharmacy school debt and you want to get an advanced degree, you have several options (including a two-year online master’s degree in natural products, offered by a prominent school of pharmacy), but I don't recommend it. I don't think you need two or three more years of school and $20,000 more in debt to practice the way I am proposing. You've paid your dues! You’ve got this!

Still listening? Interested? Send me your comments and I'll elaborate further. (Rule One: Don't give them all the answers the first time out. This goes for your future seminars too. You want them to come into the pharmacy to complete the transaction). Stay tuned!

Mark Burger owns Health First! Pharmacy and Compounding Center in Windsor, California. He welcomes your questions and comments at

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