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Pharmacy Offers More Than a Bottle of Pills


RICHMOND, Va. — Time was when the lunch counter at the corner drugstore sold cheeseburgers and milkshakes, not making for the kind of healthy atmosphere businessman Daniel Herbert thinks today's consumers want.

For a fee, customers at Herbert's Westhampton Pharmacy can plan diets to gain or lose weight, check their cholesterol and blood pressure, obtain a complete medication analysis and calculate their life expectancy.

"We feel like pharmacists have a lot of services to offer other than filling prescriptions," said Herbert, who opened a health center at his pharmacy in January. "We think it's the way pharmacy is going to be practiced.

"We want to set the standard. We want to help people get good, healthy habits so they take less medication."

Herbert's chain, Richmond Apothecaries, has six pharmacies in Richmond and opened a health center at a second store in late July.

"Pharmacy counseling seems to be the wave of the future," said Midge Pearce, an assistant editor at Pharmacy Times, published in Port Washington, N.Y. "This is the first time I've ever seen anybody put a price on it."

A nutritionist staffs Herbert's center two days a week, and for $35 an hour tests cholesterol and blood glucose. She also recommends diets.

Herbert's daughter Catherine is the pharmacist at Westhampton. For $35 an hour, she analyzes the medicine people take and advises them how to schedule drugs and meals to minimize side effects.

The store also offers a computer that reads customers' blood pressure, pulse and weight. It advises people of their ideal weight and their risk of a heart attack, and it gives a personalized stress analysis. The computer also figures a customer's "health age" and life expectancy based on answers to questions such as "Do you smoke?" and "Do you exercise?"

Each query costs a quarter. Or for $12, customers can join for a year.

Many chain drugstores are focusing on what the pharmacist can offer, said Tom Menighan, a pharmacist and senior director of external affairs for the American Pharmaceutical Assn. in Washington.

"Dan is just taking it the next step and building the community-health-center kind of approach. We feel the future of pharmacy is in the kind of information we provide rather than just giving the right drug to the right patient," Menighan said.

People should get more from their pharmacy than "a paper bag and a thank you from a high school clerk," he said. "If they can't relate to that pharmacist, they should find another one."

Health services can attract and retain patients because they will keep coming back instead of giving up on their prescriptions, Menighan said.

Equipping the center cost $40,000, including $10,000 for the health computer. Opening the second center cost $15,000 to $18,000.

Herbert said he hoped the center would be making money at the end of the year. But he said it's been hard to persuade people they need some of the services.

"For tests, people are here all the time," Herbert said. "The rest is slow growth. We're selling things people have never bought before."

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