McQuade's Marketplace Pharmacies Carve Out Niche

Pharmacy Times, July 2018 Digestive Health, Volume 84, Issue 7

Courtney McQuade, PharmD, is the owner of and pharmacist at McQuade’s Marketplace (mcquadesmarket.com), a local chain of family owned grocery stores, which houses pharmacies in 2 locations: Mystic, Connecticut, and Westerly, Rhode Island. She has carved out a few niches in her pharmacy practice, allowing McQuade’s to thrive in a time of lower reimbursements.

Adherence packaging/blister packing is a very popular offering at McQuade’s. The pharmacy uses the company DisPill for blister cells and software. The pharmacy’s operating system links up to the blister cell software, allowing team members to create blister packs of 7-, 28-, or 56-day supplies. The blister packaging, which is all done in store by a pharmacist and technician, is growing in popularity.

This service is both appreciated by older patients with adherence issues or multiple medications and a great tool for busy parents who have trouble remembering to take their medications, McQuade says. Because delivery is free, the blister packaging also has helped decrease the number of trips made by patients. Some pharmacies charge for this service.

McQuade says this sets the pharmacy apart. The grocery store’s philosophy is that customers do not need loyalty cards to receive the best prices, and that extends to the blister packaging service. Many nurses in local nursing homes recommend the service to their patients. As of now, several hundred people between the 2 stores use this service.

The pharmacy also offers a weight loss program by Ideal Protein, a medically managed program. Patients, who are often referred by their cardiologists or internal medicine physicians, eat a mix of protein-fortified foods, such as trail mix, shakes, and snack bars, which are sold in the pharmacy, in conjunction with a diet of lean proteins and vegetables. They come in weekly for a blood pressure reading and a and weight check. Once a patient achieves 80% of the weight loss goal, the pharmacists work with them to create a healthy diet they can continue after they finish the program.This philosophy extends to the cafés located in the grocery stores, which carefully select and prepare foods that are compatible with the program. For example, instead of a breaded buffalo chicken sandwich, the cafés serve grilled chicken with buffalo sauce in a lettuce wrap. McQuade says the weight loss program has been very successful.

In addition to these features, the pharmacy offers nonsterile compounding. Because of its location near an aquarium and many of its patients have farm animals as pets, the pharmacy works closely with local veterinarians to provide unique forms of therapy. For example, McQuade recently had to figure out how to give celecoxib (Celebrex) to a rooster and flavor medications to taste like grass for an alpaca. In providing this service, McQuade has carved out another unique niche for the pharmacy. She says that she never sees the same situation twice and gets to use her pharmacy knowledge for problem solving.

There are several other compounds offered by the pharmacy that have become very popular, such as all-purpose nipple ointment (APNO) for breastfeeding mothers. APNO is a combination of an antifungal, ibuprofen to decrease inflammation, lidocaine for pain relief, and mupirocin to help heal and prevent infection. McQuade says that it is very rewarding to be able to help both babies and moms. McQuade’s has also helped many older patients with pain relief. The pharmacy offers a compound of gabapentin, lidocaine, and piroxicam, which is helpful for arthritis and nerve pain.

Pediatric compounding is also a specialty. One popular treatment is a tetracaine lollipop, which is used for mouth sores or for a patient to have before a dental procedure. This numbs the mouth before Novocaine is injected. The pharmacy also compounds drugs for very young patients with heart conditions, such as lisinopril or sildenafil suspension. The pharmacy can formulate these medications in very low concentrations as ordered by the physician.

McQuade, who says that she is always looking for unique ways to help patients, also focuses on natural products, especially those that are made locally. Popular items include a bug and tick spray and local lip balms and sunscreens, among other items in the pharmacy’s large assortment of beauty and health aids.

Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.