Finding success in the past-and future Featured

10:05am EDT July 22, 2002
The Internet is taking Community Drug of Greenfield into the future and the past-at the same time.

"Compounding, or custom-making medications to fit the needs of patients, is the roots of pharmacy, and the Internet is the future," says pharmacist and Community Drug's owner, David Hairhoger.

Modern pharmacy has evolved from an activity where pharmacists prepared medications from scratch to one where most prescription drugs are ready for dispensing.

Hairhoger has discovered a lucrative business in selling drugs over the Internet to customers who either need specially prepared medications or who want to retain a degree of anonymity.

The store's Web site, www.communitydrug.com, is able to reach those customers, and has proved so popular that one of his counter pharmacists spends most of his time-about 35 hours a week-answering e-mail inquiries and filling prescriptions filed over the Internet.

Not surprisingly, a popular medication for Internet buyers is Viagra, the drug used to treat male impotence. Viagra, home HIV test kits and other products that some customers may find uncomfortable purchasing in a retail environment likewise are available on Community Drug's Web site.

By keeping up with changes in the pharmacy industry, keeping an eye open for new opportunities and catering to physicians who want medications in special forms to treat their patients, Community Drug can do an end run on the chains. After all, the big operators depend on large volumes of business for profitability and don't want to spend their time compounding ointments or preparing capsules.

And humans aren't the only customers benefiting from the Web pharmacy. Veterinarians looking for special compounding for animals often consult the pharmacy to provide human drugs in special forms or strengths. One requested a heart medication for a cat, for instance, and Hairhoger's pharmacist was able to provide it in a small, concentrated amount-and with a tuna flavoring.

How's that for old-fashioned customer service over the Internet?