5 profitable OTC solutions to common side effects
Counsel patients about nutrient depletion medications may cause — and boost profits
Although counseling patients about the possible side effects of medications is an essential role of pharmacists, you may be missing one common problem: drug-induced nutrient depletion.
Common prescription medications can deprive the body of important nutrients, and patients may have no idea that their medications may be causing new symptoms. Their physicians may not be talking about it either.
Dr. Hyla Cass, a practicing psychiatrist and author of Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition, practices integrative medicine, looking for the root cause of problems. Often she traces a patient’s condition back to low levels of nutrients, whether from dietary deficiencies or side effects of medications. In her experience, when she asks patient who have been on a statin for a long time if their doctor ever talked to them about taking coenzyme Q10, they often say no. “It’s shocking,” she said.
Cass suggests a pharmacy can distinguish itself from the competition by understanding the impact that lack of nutrients can have on patients’ health and taking the time to proactively advise them. Cass added, “Be preventative. Don’t wait until after a medication has caused a side effect to talk about what those might be.”
The top five in pharmacy
Here are five common medications and a few supplements that may help customers who are experiencing side effects taking them:
|Common medications||Supplements that may help customers|
|Statins||Coenzyme Q10 and Omega 3|
|Metformin||B12 and digestive enzymes|
|Acid reflux and heartburn drugs|
(including proton-pump inhibitors)
|Vitamin D and calcium|
Cass also recommends several other supplements based on the medications patients are taking, particularly B12 for older adults. “If you’re on a drug regimen, you really need it,” Cass said. Her book goes into great detail about medications, supplements and dietary concerns.
Know your supplements — boost your sales
Cass emphasizes that patients use high-quality, high-potency supplements, and says pharmacists should be able to discuss the options in their store and what they recommend. “Pharmacists owe it to themselves and their customers to familiarize themselves with the supplements they are selling in their pharmacy,” Cass said.
Chris Cornelison, owner of two independent pharmacies in Mississippi, started a company in 2014 to manufacture high-quality, affordable supplements under the name Solutions Rx, and sell a turnkey solution, complete with training, to pharmacies. For example, he uses crystal-free CoQ10 to improve absorption.
Four of his products are designed to help with side effects for medications for diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and hormones/birth control. Solutions Rx is now selling to pharmacies in more than 35 states. He also teaches a session for pharmacists titled “The Front-End Profit Ignitor.”
“Our products try to cover the whole category,” Cornelison said, combining multiple supplements in one pill at a lower cost than if sold separately. The result is one combined product that costs customers $23.99 per month, a price that many are willing to pay. “Customers look at it as a vitamin they need,” he explained. “Patients want to take care of their health. Everybody wants to feel better.”
A pharmacy can focus supplement discussions with patients based on specific disease states. A counseling conversation that discusses possible side effects to medications and offers supplement solutions only takes a few minutes, Cornelison said.
The patient appreciates that the pharmacy took that three minutes to discuss their health. If a patient decides to take the supplement, sales will continue month after month, and the pharmacy can integrate supplements with synchronized medication fills. (Visit the Med Sync Education Center for additional information on implementing, promoting and expanding a med sync program at your pharmacy.)
Sales of supplements can add tens of thousands of dollars in pharmacy revenue each year and help offset the lower margins on prescriptions. “So many pharmacies have all these opportunities walk in the door every day,” Cornelison said. “Every pharmacy has hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities in their store every week.” And, he said, “it’s a rewarding way to practice,” helping patients with short-term symptoms and improving medication adherence and their long-term health.