Family-owned business buys out CVS in Oakdale


submitted • The Humphrey family purchased an Oakdale pharmacy, now called Mix Pharmacy, from CVS in July. Pictured from right to left is Jason, Nolan, Elodie and Alanna. Mix Pharmacy is a compounding pharmacy, meaning it creates custom medications for customers.

submitted • A Mix Pharmacy staff member combines drug powders together, so they are thoroughly mixed before they are made into another dosage form, such as capsules, creams, gummies, lollipops, suppositories, suspensions or even animal treats. When finished, Mix Pharmacy also sends its compounds to an outside company to verify the compound was made correctly.

submitted • A Mix Pharmacy staff member, who has undergone advanced training in compounding medications, dissolves medications into a solution, so a patient who cannot swallow pills is able to take his or her medication in liquid form.

Specializes in custom meds.

 

In an uncommon turn of events, a New Brighton family has bought a pharmacy in Oakdale from CVS Health Corporation, one of the largest retail pharmacy corporations in the country. 

Even more uncommon is the business model itself — the pharmacy creates custom medications for patients.  

With the July 9 purchase, the pharmacy, owned by Alanna and Jason Humphrey and now called Mix Pharmacy, has gone back to its family-owned roots.

“It’s kind of cool because you always hear about CVS buying companies. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of another company buying itself back from CVS,” said Jason.

Prior to being owned by CVS, the pharmacy, located at 1266 Helmo Ave. N., was known as Merwin Rx-Compounding and Moudry Rx-Compounding.

“Before we were owned by CVS, we were a family-owned business since 1929,” Alanna explained. “That owner decided to retire and sold to another family-owned business that was family-owned since 1909.”

Alanna has been with the pharmacy since 2011, when she was hired on as a pharmacist. She eventually worked her way up to assistant manager, then general manager, before purchasing the company with her husband, who has a business background.

Mix Pharmacy becoming family-owned once again isn’t the only unique thing about the business. It’s a compounding pharmacy, meaning, as referenced in its name, it mixes custom medications. This allows the pharmacy to serve clients who have allergies to dyes or filler ingredients in traditional medications, who may need very precise doses of their medication or who need to take their medications in a different form.

The pharmacy has always been a compounding pharmacy, even while it was owned by CVS, which Alanna said may have contributed to the corporation’s willingness to sell the company to her and Jason.

“I think this just isn’t a part of their wheelhouse,” Alanna said, “CVS does a really good job at running a really efficient retail pharmacy that they’re really well-known for and this is such a different animal  — a different type of business than your average retail pharmacy.”

 

One size
doesn’t fit all

Mix Pharmacy regularly makes medications for pets and people of all ages, including products for bio-identical hormone therapy or to treat adrenal dysfunction or thyroid imbalance. It also makes medication for targeted pain relief, along with dentistry medications, products for wound and scar care, podiatry medications and customized nutrition and dermatology and cosmetics products.

“At your average retail pharmacy, they dispense medications that are mass produced by large manufacturers. They are usually one size fits all,” Alanna said.

She explained that Mix Pharmacy starts with a custom prescription to tailor a medication for each specific patient. 

“Then we make it up per that customized order here in our pharmacy laboratory, so we aren’t dispensing mass-produced medications. We’re making everything up here, and it’s all customized based on the patient,” she explained, adding that all of the compounds are sent to an outside company for testing before the finished product is given to the patient, in order to ensure the patient receives the intended medication.

The front room of Mix Pharmacy is filled with pharmaceutical-grade natural supplements, but offers no typical, ready-made over-the-counter medications. This aligns with the company’s focus on preventative care. Although patients can still pick up typical medications there, Alanna noted that most of their patients go to a retail pharmacy for those.

She explained that most insurance plans do not cover compounding, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will cost more than traditional medications. Jason added that the cost depends on the medication itself and the work that is required to make it.

 

A spoonful of sugar

Alanna said one big part of what compounding pharmacies do tends to be making a patient’s prescription into an alternative form. For example, children, elderly patients and pets may not be able to swallow tablets or capsules, so to make the medicine go down, the pharmacy will put the mix into another form such as a liquid, cream, gummy, lollipop, dog biscuit or cat treat.

By changing the form of the medication, compounding pharmacies can also sometimes eliminate some unwanted side effects.

Alanna explained that her grandmother had been prescribed Vicodin for arthritis in her hands, but the medication left her unable to think clearly and she was worried about the side effects and possible addiction to the medication. 

Mix Pharmacy was able to make her a customized pain medication that she can apply as a cream to her hands when she feels the pain, and because of that medication, she was able to stop taking Vicodin and can still go about her normal routine pain-free.

Another big part of what compounding pharmacies offer is combining what would otherwise be several pills into a single pill for the convenience of the patient.

For some, this results in a customized blend of vitamins and supplements. Alana explained that a patient will undergo testing to determine the exact amounts of each vitamin that specific person needs, and up to 30 or so components can be added into one personalized pill.

Another example Alanna explained was bio-identical hormone replacement, used to treat menopause and prevent diseases associated with aging, which requires a precise dose and often involves multiple hormones. Compounding pharmacies are able to make patients one pill that combines the precise dosage they need of each of the hormones they are prescribed.

Alanna explained that Mix Pharmacy is open to working with any doctors in the community, even those who are not sure how to write a compounding prescription or not familiar with what a compounding pharmacy can offer. Similarly, patients who maybe do not have a regular doctor can be directed from pharmacy staff to physicians in the community who are open to working with a compounding pharmacy.

“It’s really a team between us, the provider and the patient. We all work as a team together to figure out how we can best serve that patient,” Alanna said. “We’re proud of the work that we do.”

 

– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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