MARCH 2020 - Kent MacLeod and his team at NutriChem prove that finding the right niche is key to long-standing success.
This independent, Ottawa-based pharmacy is still thriving after 40 years in business because it has been setting trends in pharmacy practice from its very beginnings.
“When I first started NutriChem, everyone was just a general pharmacy and we wound up being virtually one of the first compounding pharmacies in Ontario because the need was absolutely there,” says pharmacist/owner MacLeod. There are a wide number of reasons a drug company formulation is not appropriate for a particular patient and McLeod says he and his team have always found a way to solve the problem through compounding. Nutri-Chem was compounding medications for children, digestive issues, pain and hormones, for example, long before any other pharmacies in the community were doing it.
Today Nutrichem employs 50 staff and features a retail space, plus clinic and NAPRA-compliant compounding pharmacy, which means it adheres to strict standards for sterile compounding of hazardous and non-hazardous drugs. MacLeod says complying with NAPRA was very difficult in terms of money, technology and a steep learning curve where NutriChem was essentially on its own. “NAPRA is crucial for the reputation of pharmacy and the future of pharmacy compounding,” he says.
Being NAPRA-compliant allows the pharmacy to participate in everything from clinical trials to central fill from hospitals and retail pharmacies who do not comply with NAPRA.
MacLeod says he’s always felt that pharmacists are “uniquely equipped” to provide healthcare and the pharmacy services offered at NutriChem have evolved to reflect that. “I never like to say no to patients’ needs, so we figure out a way to help them.”
The pharmacy has naturopaths, clinical pharmacists and nutritionists who specialize in biochemistry testing, hormone analysis, mental health and nutrition. They also offer comprehensive treatments for improving gut health, pain management and menopause symptoms.
MacLeod has observed that pharmacists, naturopathic doctors and nutritionists has been one of the most powerful “compounded” mixture of people for initiating change around deprescribing of drugs like proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s), for example. Recently NutricChem was involved in a pilot project on medication deprescribing, funded by the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy where the pharmacy was focused on helping patients get off PPIs. “Often these drugs are masking the problem and instead we aim to get to the root of the issue so we can help fix it.”
McLeod, who has been getting paid for patient consults for the last 25 years, says if pharmacists expect to get paid for services they have to go “all in” in providing treatment. “In the example of PPIs, I couldn’t just say stop taking them, I had to be able to solve the problem—that’s what patients value,” he says. (Helping patients repair their digestive system, for example, can take as little as two weeks or up to 90 days with 2-3 consultations for severe cases.)
“We don’t cut dispensing fees and we’re not getting involved with people who are looking for price shopping,” he says. “All my pharmacists are dealing with complex health issues, compounding issues or drug prescription problems and they’re compensated accordingly.”
McLeod says he has observed that pharmacists like to “stay in their lane” even when they know that lane is going in the wrong direction. For pharmacists looking to take advantage of expanded scope, he urges “to stop making excuses” and find ways to really help patients. “In my career I have been more afraid of not helping my clients versus being afraid of stepping out of my lane,” he adds.