When Erik Nelson, owner of Sixth Avenue Medical Pharmacy, started to hear concern over coronavirus, he stocked up on inventory, but not the inventory one might think.
Nelson bought the raw materials to make hand sanitizer and ordered thermometers and basics like shampoo and toothbrushes.
Nelson and his wife, dietitian Katie Nelson, bought the pharmacy at 508 W. 6th Ave. in 2013. Since then, the business has grown from just four employees to 25. The Nelsons purchased two other pharmacies, Marketime Drug in Moscow, Idaho, and Suncrest Pharmacy in Nine Mile Falls.
The couple wanted “a lot more freedom to practice pharmacy the way that we want.”
Nelson takes a holistic approach, encouraging lifestyle interventions and supplements, along with medication.
“It’s not what you associate a pharmacist with, but I think people should get off drugs,” Nelson said. “Let’s find that cause and let’s treat that cause instead of just giving them a pill.”
As part of the approach, Nelson and the other pharmacists at Sixth Avenue work hard to develop relationships with customers, many of whom have been calling a bit scared.
“You have to just help calm their fears and reassure them it’s going to be OK, but you’ve got to practice social distancing,” Nelson said. “Hand-washing is probably the most important.”
The pharmacy offers delivery by mail and courier, along with drive-thru pickup, all services in which Nelson has seen a huge increase in recent weeks.
People are calling and asking if the pharmacy has basics like gloves and thermometers.
The pharmacy has received many calls from patients who use hydroxychloroquine to treat rheumatoid arthritis and have been unable to get it anywhere else.
There have been shortages of hydroxychloroquine after President Donald Trump said it could help treat COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others, however, have warned that doctors advise against prescribing the drug because of potentially serious side effects.
Nelson ordered the supplies to compound the medication in case the pharmacy were to run out. He said there has been an increase in lupus and arthritis patients transferring to his pharmacy.
Customers also have been looking to boost their immune systems.
“There’s a whole host of supplements that can help boost your immune system naturally,” Nelson said.
Sales of core supplements to support the immune system have risen tenfold, Nelson said.
Along with medication, pharmacists at Sixth Avenue have been compounding hand sanitizer “by the gallon.”
“We’re ordering the basic over-the-counter stuff like shampoo, toothpaste and stuff like that,” Nelson said.
He noted it’s common for elderly customers to add the basics to their delivery orders.
Building a relationship with a pharmacist can make all the difference in a time like this, Nelson said.
“We’re the most accessible doctorate degree in the healthcare field,” he said. “Create a relationship with your pharmacist, and they’ll tell you if it’s something serious that needs to be addressed by a doctor.”
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