Americans are desperate to be well. Being well, however, is not the business model of modern medicine, according to Kathy Campbell, PharmD, clinical community pharmacist and CEO/owner of Dr Kathy Health, LLC, and Medicap Pharmacy in Owasso, Oklahoma. The American health care system is structured to respond to a patient’s diagnosis, not prevent disease.
The $40 billion supplement industry,1 which includes vitamins and nutraceuticals, represents Americans’ willingness to spend money to be healthy. “Pharmacists are perfectly positioned and trained to understand the chemistry of supplements and foods, and as well as drugs and diseases,” Campbell said. “They can assist customers by recommending appropriate supplements. Sales of these products can also benefit a pharmacy’s bottom line.”
Bowe Craine, PharmD, co-owner and pharmacist in charge at Okie’s Pharmacy II Inc., in Blaine, Tennessee, agreed, and said that pharmacists should be at the forefront of not only selling supplements, but that they should also educate patients on OTC products that may not be FDA approved.
When looking to grow business with supplement sales, pharmacists should first educate themselves. “Research the most common products in various categories, and then analyze which ones fit your community’s needs,” Craine said. For example, if you have a large patient population with inflammatory conditions, such as irritable bowel disease or arthritis, then you should start with products like turmeric, fish oil, or cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
“Get out from behind the counter and talk to customers,” Craine said. “Ask how they feel about their current therapies and if they’re sufficient. Be confident in your ability to make recommendations about products that can improve quality of life. Not only will you increase your sales and profit margins, but you will also create loyal customers and build trusting relationships.”
Campbell recommended attending an 8-hour continuing education course from the National Community Pharmacists Association and Dr Kathy Health, Creating Health-Pharmacist-led Lifestyle and Weight Management, which teaches supplementation basics and foundational training in assisting patients with health.
When researching supplements, Craine uses UpToDate, PubMed, or the Dietary Supplements Labels Database to study their safety, efficacy, and various uses. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website is also recommended to get a better understanding of the usefulness and safety of supplements with evidenced-based research, advises Dipan B. Ray, MPharm, MS, PhD, RPh, senior director of experiential education at Touro College of Pharmacy in New York, New York.
Nina Chhabra, PharmD, a natural medicines specialist at Northwell Health/Vivo Health Pharmacy in New Hyde Park, New York, subscribes to reputable databases, such as the Natural Medicine Database, which provides detailed information regarding supplements like their level of effectiveness, safety information, dosing information, and possible drug interactions. ConsumerLab.com provides third-party testing results. The National Institute of Health’s website shows if any clinical trials were conducted to support a particular product’s usage, she said.