By Ali Munday
“I believe that more and more people
are beginning to take control of their own
health care. The best way to fight disease
is to stay well,” said Michael Lenz, independent
pharmacist, former mayor and lifelong
resident of Saratoga Springs.
Three years ago, after seeing many of his
independent colleagues go out of business
due to cuts by insurance companies in prescription
reimbursement rates, Lenz realized
that in order to move his business forward,
he’d have to step back into the past.
He took his existing business, the landmark
Menges & Curtis pharmacy on Broadway
in Saratoga Springs, sold his traditional
prescription business to CVS, and partnered
with Peter Fallon and George Doherty of
Fallon Wellness Pharmacy in Latham to become
Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga
— a compounding pharmacy.
Compounding pharmacies make medications from scratch, in the exact strength and dosage required by the patient — which means the compounding pharmacist works with both the patient and their prescriber to customize medications to meet specific needs.
It’s a distinctive niche, different from the big-name pharmacies, (with equally competent pharmacists on staff), but the two aren’t necessarily in competition. It’s not unusual for the independent compounding pharmacy to receive referrals from the chain pharmacies that they are simply unable to fill.
And it’s more likely that when a customer walks into an independent pharmacy, that they will find the owner working right there. Now that Lenz’s business is exclusively a compounding pharmacy, they don’t fill any traditional medication prescriptions.
Instead, the majority of his compounding business in the Saratoga store is in the area of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms. There’s also a great deal of veterinary compounding for small animals, mainly dogs and cats, but birds, rabbits, and guinea pigs too.
Both Lenz and Peter Fallon are trained in functional medicine, which enables them to work with practitioners and patients through “wellness consultations.”
Customers can complete a detailed questionnaire and, for a fee, consult with them on their particular medical issue. Often, by working with the client’s practitioner, they develop a functional medicine protocol to help them achieve optimal wellness. That may involve nutritional supplementation, diet, and lifestyle changes. Lenz and Fallon frequently see patients to discuss hormonal issues, adrenal fatigue and stress, weight gain, and other chronic disease states.
“The amazing aspect of wellness consultations is that every person is unique, and we approach each consultation with that mind set,” said Lenz. “The reason we have patients fill out a very detailed questionnaire is to allow us to determine the overall picture of their health and wellness. We deal with a matrix of possible issues, because all of our body systems are connected, and to achieve optimal wellness we need to explore all these areas and determine a plan specific for that individual.
“Everyone is complex and unique…areas that may seem unrelated, often are tied together. Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systemsoriented approach and engages both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.” How though, can compounding pharmacies evolve and compete with big pharmaceutical companies?
“We don’t really compete with ‘big pharma’ at all,” said Lenz. “What we offer is completely different. We market ourselves to practitioners on the compounding part of our business. We offer them solutions to problems they may be having with dosing, dosage forms, flavors, and specific combinations of drugs that just aren’t available commercially. We describe ourselves as problem solvers.”
Fallon Wellness holds seminars at the Saratoga location almost every six weeks. These have focused primarily on BHRT and adrenal fatigue, but in the coming year they plan to offer other seminars, maybe on juicing, detox, and other topics customers have been inquiring about. Last June, they held their first “Healthier You” event, which sold out completely. The day-long event featured experts on BHRT, food as medicine, natural skin care, exercise, and functional medicine. The 2014 event will require a larger venue because of the waiting list.
In addition to Lenz, his Saratoga store employs two full-time pharmacy technicians and a retail manager, as well as several part-time pharmacists. Also, as a teaching pharmacy, a stream of pharmacy students on final rotation from Albany College of Pharmacy pass through this historic store, founded in 1872.
While major renovations were made to create a state-of-the-art compounding lab, the business received an historic preservation award for its resolve and success in blending the Victorian storefront with the new practice.
“Saratoga Springs has historically been known as a place of health, but recently there has been a tremendous surge in our community interest in health and wellness,” said Lenz. “We’ve seen new health food stores open up, farmers markets are thriving, and people are paying more attention to their health than ever before. To be able to offer our unique combination of customized medicine, the highest quality nutritional supplements and skin care formulations, as well as our growing wellness consultation practice is exciting. What we offer is completely unique, and we’ve seen our business grow each year because of positive word of mouth.”
The wellness questionnaire is available in person at either location, and at www.fallonpharmacysaratoga.com or www.fallonpharmacy.com. The Saratoga site features a wellness blog that Lenz writes–with a new topic posted almost weekly. Both websites and their Facebook page contain useful information about health and wellness.
Fallon Wellness Pharmacies are located at 1057 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham and 472 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.