Presenter: Katherine Lodge
Guest: Alvin Narsey
Guest Bio: Alvin Narsey is the owner of Union Square Pharmacy and has practiced pharmacy for over 12 years.
Health Professional Radio – Pharmacy and Natural Medicine
Katherine Lodge: Thank you for joining us at Health Professional Radio today. Today our special guest is Alvin Narsey who is the owner of Union Square Pharmacy and has practiced pharmacy for over 12 years. Welcome to our show, Alvin.
Alvin Narsey: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Katherine: Now, a pharmacist, you’re one of those pharmacists who has both regular medicines and natural medicines available to all their customers. That’s right, is it?
Alvin: Yeah, that’s correct. So, I’m passionate about natural medicines and I’m passionate about helping people get better sooner. So, in my pharmacy we try and use the two of them to help people get better sooner by using traditional pharmacy medicines and also using natural medicines.
Katherine: Right, and sometimes they complement each other, but one of the common things that you probably see is patients use medicines incorrectly.
Alvin: Absolutely. So, you’re right. A lot of the times they can be used together, but certainly in some instances there is an interaction with using a natural medicine and a prescription medication, which then can lead to side effects. One of the main side effects that we sometimes see is the prescription medication not working as effectively as it should. Yeah.
Katherine: Okay. Because I know there are some common drugs that people take, say for example, with cholesterol, and they don’t know, but certain citrus or things that they think are fairly harmless can interfere with their treatment. Which is life-threatening.
Alvin: Yeah, it can be and what you’re talking about or alluding to are the statin-type drugs which are very common in the States for helping you reduce your cholesterol. Yeah, certainly if you have lots and lots and lots of grapefruit juice, which is one of the stickers that you see on there, it can slow down the way the statin medication gets excreted from the body. If you have too much of that in your system it can cause muscle cramps and sometimes very, very fatal myalgia-type things, which can be pretty fatal sometimes.
Katherine: Yeah. I wanted to talk to you about how some people use natural medicine and there are certain things that natural medicine, it’s just easier for them to get access. For example, vitamin D, it’s easier to take a pill than to sit outside for a period of time or maybe in the example of omega-3s or fish oils. So, they use that to supplement their diet but also people misconstrue that because they think it’s vitamins they can just take any vitamin that they like without any repercussions.
But I’ve heard of situations where people who are not iron-deficient take iron tablets and then they cause themselves some health issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Alvin: Absolutely. So, certainly we always recommend vitamins or any other natural supplement if there is a definite need, because, you’re right, the natural medicines, at the end of the day, are chemical compounds like drugs and if taken incorrectly or if taken the wrong way, can have a detrimental effect on the body. So, if you’re taking, in the instance that you said, if you’re taking iron and you don’t really need the iron, then you’re going to get some nasty side effects, especially some of the tummy side effects.
So, we always recommend that you only take these kind of natural medicines and any other medicines if you’re deficient in it. So, there would be no use taking vitamin D supplementation if your vitamin D levels were okay, and the same thing with the iron.
Katherine: Right, and I know some people, because there is heavy marketing in magazines and also on television for people to take multivitamins, and I know some people, they have that ‘just in case’ kind of mentality where they think, ‘look, I don’t know if I’m deficient in whatever, but if I take a multivitamin that should cover all my bases’. But what you’re saying is maybe you don’t need to take a multivitamin if you are kind of healthy and have a balanced diet. Or are they right in that you can take a multivitamin just in case?
Alvin: Well, we always like to use multivitamins as a building block for using other natural medicines. So, basically you’ll find a lot of people will find that by taking a multivitamin and then adding a specific vitamin on top, it will just work much better because multivitamins sort of sets the ground base, so to speak, so all these other medicines, natural medicines, can work more effectively. In the end there is a bit of a split, but in my experience with my patients they do see the benefits from taking like a general multivitamin.
They do see the results within about three months or so, just mainly generally in their overall wellbeing.
Katherine: There are actual subdivisions that traditional medicine may not even perform as well as maybe with a natural product. For example, maybe some … maybe I shouldn’t say that, but like allergies for example could benefit from the addition of a natural product. Can you give us some other examples?
Alvin: Yeah, for sure. So, for instance, you mentioned allergies. So, hay fever is a big thing. I suffer from hay fever myself and being in Melbourne when it comes to springtime it’s really bad. We can supplement the use of antihistamines, which is traditionally what’s used, with a natural product called Quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine, a natural anti-inflammatory-type action.
The other thing that we use a lot of in my practice is we see a lot of kids with eczema and we supplement the general creams and lotions and potions that you do get on prescription with using probiotics.
Alvin: Yeah, we’re starting to see a lot of good results with that, mainly because eczema is an inflammatory-type response also. And they’re finding that kids with eczema and adults as well have what’s known as a leaky gut, which is basically an imbalance in their immune system in their gut, and by supplementing with probiotics we can get a lot quicker results and a lot better results in managing their condition.
Katherine: Right, and there some products that are practitioner only. What are the main differences between practitioner-only products and some of the vitamins that you can get off the shelf?
Alvin: Practitioner only products, they usually are high-dose, natural medicines. So, doses in which you’d only be recommended by a qualified health professional like a pharmacist or a naturopath. Usually also the quality of them is a lot better, so with natural medicines, because they’re synthesised and extracted from natural products there are different forms of the vitamin, so to speak, or the natural product.
And generally the practitioner only ones come in a better form and better formulations. So, that means they work a lot better in the body, get absorbed a lot better than your regular day-to-day sort of vitamins that you get out in the front of the shops.
Katherine: Yeah, okay. Thanks for explaining that. I just wanted to talk a little bit about how the pharmacy industry has changed over the last decade. You’ve probably seen some changes. There are large franchises now that are buying up smaller, private-run pharmacies and also the rise of the Internet and how more and more people are shopping online including buying drugs online, mainly vitamins. I don’t think you’re allowed to buy drugs online, but I’m sure some people do. Can you talk a little bit about the changes in the industry?
Alvin: Sure, yeah. So, the changes have been happening, like you said, so the past ten years, we’re starting to see the prevalence of online shopping definitely, prevalence of warehouse-style pharmacies which have been popping up all over the place, and also the prevalence of medicines and typically what we call over-the-counter pharmacy medicines, slowly moving into supermarkets.
So, there is a lot of change happening in the pharmacy industry around that. And it’s getting really challenging for a small operator like myself to sort of show the value proposition to your patients and your customers that price isn’t the only driving factor in choosing your pharmacy. Trying to highlight things like service and the opportunity where you can come into the pharmacy and speak to a pharmacist and not waiting long to get your scripts done, et cetera.
And with also a lot of changes in our PDS system in Australia with reforms in that, and we’re seeing less sort of compensation being paid to the pharmacists and generally all healthcare really, but, yeah, that’s the road it’s heading.
Katherine: So many changes, and you’re right, you brought up that you brought up that you can buy some vitamins in a supermarket, but on the flip side, if you go to the pharmacy you can buy other products besides pharmaceuticals such as shampoos and dishwashing detergent and things like that.
Alvin: That’s right, and we’re hoping the main thing is, when you come to an independent pharmacy, is you can get the advice. You got staff can spend time with you and really explain to you and help you diagnose and treat. Whereas quite often with the price-based model it’s very difficult to get advice. You sort of go in, you just pick up what you want and you walk out.
Katherine: Yeah, and I think a lot of people turn to, say, online, if they have a health ailment that they’re a little bit embarrassed about. They will jump online and maybe do a little bit of research and find that this vitamin helps treat such and such.
Katherine: Then they’ll just go online and do without a consultation, but what you’ve highlighted, which I think is really interesting, is like say the eczema example. You would know something like that, but online …
Alvin: It’s very hard to [indecipherable 10:58].
Katherine: Yeah, and you can actually see their skin condition, you can actually see them while you’re doing a consultation.
Alvin: Exactly, exactly. It’s difficult to do when you’re online. So, I think there’s still going to be space in the marketplace for the various types of pharmacies, the discounters and the full service model. It’s just about claiming that space and showing the value proposition to your patients and your customers.
Katherine: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time today.
Alvin: Awesome. Thank you.