Menges & Curtis Apothecary will stop filling regular prescriptions in two weeks and focus exclusively on compounding medications.
The Broadway pharmacy will become Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga, although the building will keep its stained glass Menges & Curtis sign in front, said owner Michael Lenz. Lenz, a former Saratoga Springs mayor and City Council member, is partnering with pharmacists Peter Fallon and George Doherty, owners of Fallon Wellness Center in Latham, to expand the wellness center’s reach north.
“They’ve been looking for a second location up in the north area,” Lenz said of Fallon and Doherty. The well-known Latham compounding pharmacy has customers in this area who will be referred to the Saratoga store at 472 Broadway.
“It’s going to be a lot more convenient for a lot of their patients to go to Saratoga instead of going to Latham,” Lenz said.
Lenz will serve as president and supervising pharmacist of the store. The current full-time staff will remain.
He announced the change Thursday, two days after sending letters to prescription customers.
For his part, Lenz has found his niche in compounding and has sought to build that part of his practice.
In compounding, pharmacists mix a custom combination of chemicals depending on what the patient needs, rather than simply counting commercial pills and putting them in a bottle.
Compounds are most often used for female hormone replacement therapy in menopause, for reducing adult-strength medications to pediatric doses or for veterinary medications, Lenz said.
The changeover happens on May 26.
The pharmacy’s files for regular prescriptions will be sold to the CVS on Congress Street. Customers who got their prescriptions delivered will still be able to do so thanks to a Menges & Curtis staffer who will work as an independent contractor picking up pills from CVS for those patients, Lenz said.
The pharmacy’s most obvious physical change will be the construction of a new glass-enclosed compounding lab where customers will be able to see pharmacists mixing doses in a “clean room.” Eventually that area will be accredited as a clean room.
Currently, compounds are made in a lab in the back that is not visible.
Lenz said the new lab probably will be started next month and finished in July, and architects plan to keep the current theme of dark wood in new walls and moldings that are installed.
A pharmacy technician will take prescriptions at a counter in front of the clean room.
The pharmacy will keep its current lines of spa and beauty products sold in the front of the store and will stock more nutritional and wellness products also.
A nutritional and wellness consultant will be available for one-on-one appointments in a private room in the back, he said.
He does about 180 compounds a month, while Fallon Wellness Center does that many in a day, Lenz said.
The pharmacy on Broadway is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and Lenz said switching to exclusively compounding is a return to the pharmacy’s roots.
Back then, all pharmacists made compounds, and that’s pretty much all they did until modern drugs were manufactured.
“This is really kind of cool that this is coming full circle,” Lenz said.
Compounding chemicals used today are all approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Few herbs are used, Lenz said.
One down side for customers who have health insurance is that the pharmacy does not bill insurers for the compounded drugs. Patients pay out of pocket and then get what reimbursement they can from their insurance companies.
Lenz said insurers typically only reimburse for the actual ingredients, not the time and expertise it takes to make the compounded drug.
Lenz said pet owners really enjoy the compounding, which anyone who has ever attempted to give a cat a pill can appreciate.
He mixes up topical creams that can be spread on the thin skin on the inside of a cat’s ear or suspends the chemicals in a salmon-flavored liquid that owners can shoot into the animal’s mouth with a syringe.
Customers say pets actually like the taste of the medication, Lenz said: “They come running for their dose.”