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VOL. 125 | NO. 197 | Monday, October 11, 2010

Regel Pharmalab Uses Uniqueness to Advantage

SUSAN AGEE | Special to The Daily News

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Josh Regel of Regel Pharmalab (Photo: Bob Bayne)

Regel Pharmalab is finding a foothold in the Memphis medical community for the same reason it initially encountered skepticism – because the business is different.

As the name states, this pharmacy is also a lab. Prescriptions aren’t just filled here; they are honed into custom formulas that better suit the needs of each patient. Regel’s products are solutions for many situations, including hospice care, veterinary medicine, special formulations for children, and bio-identical hormone treatment for women and men.

Josh and Summer Regel opened Regel Pharmalab in Cordova in 2003. Josh Regel had worked in his father’s pharmacy, Bartlett Prescription Shoppe, for a few years, and from that experience knew that what he wanted to do was specialize in compounding.

“Not all medications fit everyone exactly right,” he said. “I wanted to help people feel better and help them manage their medications. Ninety percent of the time in this type of business we actually help people feel better. You don’t see that with regular pharmacies; you see people taking medicine and their blood pressure gets lower, but they don’t really feel better.”

The same principle applies in the area of bio-identical hormone therapy, an area that has been one of huge growth for the Regels over the last few years.

Summer Regel works with hormone patients on getting the correct amount of hormone to alleviate the symptoms that many women have during PMS or menopause. The use of bio-identical hormones – those that have the same chemical structure as the hormones a person’s body naturally produces – is sometimes controversial, but Regel feels that as physicians and the general public are educated about the therapy, acceptance for it is becoming more widespread. The pharmalab hosts seminars on this topic and those will begin again in January. The bio-identical hormone therapy makes up 30 to 40 percent of Regel’s business.

The bottom line in all of the pharmalab’s work is that the patient’s symptoms are given as much consideration as are their test results in determining a course of treatment.

Pediatric and veterinary medicine are two areas where a compounding pharmacy’s ability to change the form of a drug (such as from a pill into a liquid), may mean the difference between getting the medicine inside the patient or not. Hospice patients and their caregivers benefit from more personalized formulations of pain medications.

“In every field of medicine, there’s something that compounds can do,” said Josh Regel.

When he was starting out, other pharmacy owners told Regel that if he made it past the fifth year, he’d be OK. November will mark seven years for Regel Pharmalab and business is 200 to 300 percent better than it was in the beginning.

The last year has seen an increase of 50 percent.

Just having survived that five-year mark gives Regel the confidence to turn over some of the in-house responsibilities to one of his six employees and allows him the opportunity to spend more time building the business. Marketing representative Amy Maddox was hired four years ago to help open doors, and with Regel available to answer the technical questions, he’s hoping that even more trust can be built with physicians.

One challenge for any compounding pharmacy is getting health insurance companies to pay for drugs that they can’t fit into a neat category. Regel said he has seen a small improvement in this area, but doesn’t expect there to be a major change any time soon.

Patients who try compounded medications and find the benefits worth the effort are persistent in filing for reimbursement and sometimes succeed. Other patients are able to pay for the medicines with a flexible spending account or health savings account.

Josh and Summer Regel said they are excited about the success of their business. They are hoping, but not p

lanning, to relocate five or so years down the road.

Expansion into more than one location isn’t something that Josh Regel said he sees them doing, for the simple reason that what they do is as much of an art as a science. For now, he is happy with the progress they’ve made.

“Physicians have seen us for over five years,” he said. “Now they say, ‘OK, this is a legitimate place where we can send our patients.’”

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