Specialty Pharmacy Heads ‘Back To The Future’

By  //  February 16, 2013

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Personalized Compounds Mixed Like In Years Past

Pharmacist Tom Switzler demonstrates the “glove box” he uses for mixing compound medicines that need as sterile an environment as possible. (Image by Robert Hughes)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Tom and Barbara Switzler of Specialty Pharmacy in Melbourne are part of a movement that’s taking pharmaceutical practice back to where it began in order to better serve patients now and in the future.

The earliest pharmacies were all about compounding, which is the mixing of medications for individual needs, as opposed to mass production of a limited range of dosages and applications for the general population.

Tom and Barbara Switzler work behind the counter at Specialty Pharmacy in Melbourne. The large glass object to the left is called a show globe, which used to symbolize pharmacies “the way barber poles advertise barbers,” according to Tom. The Switzlers’ business is full of drugstore antiques. (Image by Robert Hughes)

The simplest example of compounding would be if a patient needed a 70 mg. daily dose of a medication, and it was only available in 50 or 100 mg. pills. A compounding pharmacist would simply make you 70 mg. pills.

But compounding is more than just simplifying dosages: It’s all about making medication easier or better for the patients.

Tom Switzler gave some examples.

“A patient might think he can only take his medication by injection, but it could work as an eye drop,” he said. “Or you might have a calf wound and taking an antibiotic intravenously; Instead, you could use a topical lotions. They might not know that those were possibilities.

“We work with each patient as an individual and learn everything we can about their situation and needs.”

Switzler said a lot of people are unaware of the variety of ways they can take medications.

Specialty Pharmacy can be found in an unassuming house near downtown Melbourne. (Image for spacecoastdaily.com)

Not Mainstream 

“Compounding isn’t mainstream,” he said. “A lot of doctors don’t understand it or know where to find it.

“Most of the premise behind it is a triad relationship between doctor, patient and pharmacist. We have some great physicians we work with.”

Lina Paniccia of Melbourne has been going to the Switzlers’ pharmacy for several years because, she said, “I need a specific medication, and I don’t like to go to big pharmacies.”

“I need a long-acting time-released medication, and the stuff you get from (“big” pharmacies) goes in and out of your body in a few hours.”

Paniccia said she researched doctors and pharmacies for five years before she chose her current physician and Specialty Pharmacy.

“Barb and Tom (Switzler) are just incredible because they’ll pay attention to your needs. They’re not just in it for the money because they’re a husband and wife combination.”

Photos of pets who have received medication from Specialty Pharmacy take up almost an entire wall of the Melbourne drug store. (Image by Robert Hughes)

Mission Comes First

Tom Switzler echoed Paniccia’s statement over money.

“We have a mission that takes precedence over money,” he said. “We’re supposed to be the gatekeeper for the patients, to look out for them, and not just try to make more money.”

Switzler knows his pharmacy is not for everyone: For one thing, they don’t take insurance.

“It’s such a paper chase, and it’s a short-coming of where health care is,” he said. “There’s no flexibility involved. I would put in the paperwork, and 90 days later, the insurance companies would still be dragging me around.”

Despite the limit of not accepting insurance, Switzler said, “Many patients are seeking us out, but the majority have not had experience with a compounding pharmacy.

“But we’re talking about stuff (medications) that people will have to be taking the rest of their lives. We’re talking about the taste and texture of things that’ll make taking them easier.”

Perhaps the best examples for the need for compounding would come from children and pets, two groups of patients that definitely aren’t about to take anything they dislike.

Trish Tower gives a treat to a little patient named Billy for being good during his visit to Specialty Pharmacy in Melbourne. (Image by Robert Hughes)


“You can bring in little Joey, and we have all of these flavors and we can make preparations for him,” Switzler said. “And he’ll say, ‘Well, I like the cherry, but can you put some chocolate in?’ So, he’ll have ownership over the choice of medication.”

The Switzlers also serve the pet animal population, of course. And no one’s a tougher sell on taking medication than a cat… except perhaps at Specialty Pharmacy.

“Oh! We have some stuff cats will kill for,” Switzler said. “Street cats might break in here for this stuff.”

“It’s our cat emulsion,” he said as he pulled a jar of the stuff from a refrigerator. “This is the secret stuff here, Man! Our special concoction. And it’s disgusting; it’s fish! And no one likes to do this job” of pouring the concoction out.

“One of our patients said, ‘Please, I just want the base (for the emulsion),’ because his cat likes it so much.”

If the Switzlers can make Kitty turn into a cat burglar for their medications, let it be known to any other potential thieves that Specialty Pharmacy carries no narcotics.

And the pharmacy’s unexpected location in a simple residential-style home was part of the reason Switzler chose the house for his business.

“People don’t realize this is a pharmacy and we like it like that.”

Of course, the Switzlers  want  customers who need their special pharmaceutical services to know where they are.

Specialty Pharmacy is at 800 E. Melbourne Avenue in an unassuming house near downtown Melbourne and is open from 9:30 a.m. to  5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 321-953-2004 and the website is http://www.specialty-pharmacy.com/