Oprah Winfrey caused a rush at Family Pharmacy in Hampstead in March.
During one episode of her talk show, she featured a medication that allegedly increases the female libido. The drug must be specially compounded -- that's where Family Pharmacy comes in. Its pharmacists specialize in custom compounding.
"We must have had 40 calls for that cream," said Eric Yospa, 31, one of two pharmacists at the store on Lower Beckleysville Road.
Compounding used to be common in drugstores. Pharmacists prepared medications from raw ingredients according to doctors' prescriptions.
In the 1930s and 1940s, about 60 percent of all prescriptions were compounded, but that began to decrease in the 1950s as commercially prepared medications became widely available, according to the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists.
Today compounding is rebounding, with about 43,000 prescriptions compounded each day in the United States, according to academy estimates.
Family Pharmacy has made a specialty of it.
Pharmacist and store owner Irv Yospa, Eric's father, was seeking a way to increase profits in 1991 when his son -- newly graduated from Irv's alma mater, the University of Maryland pharmacy school -- suggested they try compounding.
Irv Yospa opened Family Pharmacy with his wife, Sandy, in 1975 when a doctor friend offered to lease him space in a new building. Yospa had been working for a chain pharmacy in Baltimore and "jumped with both feet."
"As time went on, the prescription plans were starting to erode our profits," said Irv Yospa, 59. "We were filling a lot of prescriptions, but we weren't making a lot of money."
Looking for something new
By that time, Eric was no stranger to the business, even though he had just graduated from pharmacy school. He and his sister, Eileen, 33 -- who is the store's bookkeeper -- practically grew up in the shop.
They did their homework in a room now reserved for compounding, and Eric worked as a clerk and pharmacy technician in the store throughout college.
"I was looking for something to expand," said Eric. "I was getting kind of bored with putting pills in bottles."
After intensive research, the Yospas made compounding a major part of their business about four years ago.
"They are an excellent resource for us," said Jeannette Passano, patient care coordinator for Carroll Hospice, a private nonprofit facility affiliated with Carroll County General Hospital. "Patients, as they approach death, are often no longer able to swallow and they [Family Pharmacy] can make medications into other forms for us."
Substitutes for pills
With compounding, pharmacists can often create a cream, suppository or liquid for patients who cannot take commercially prepared pills. If manufacturers do not make certain strengths or combinations of drugs, the pharmacist and doctor can create a prescription tailored to patients' needs. The Yospas will even flavor bitter medicines -- anything from chocolate to watermelon -- and make veterinary drugs.
Dr. Clifton Presser, a Lutherville gynecologist, said the Yospas help him serve his patients better by preparing specialized doses.
"That's how I like to think of myself," Eric Yospa said. "As a problem-solving pharmacist."
The old-fashioned skill is practiced at an old-fashioned business.
Employees are on a first-name basis with many customers. They make deliveries. The Yospas frequently receive invitations to customers' weddings, graduations and christenings.
And Sandy Yospa, who manages the non-pharmacy part of the store, refuses to charge more than $4.50 for a Beanie Baby, even though many stores charge twice that for the popular toy.
"I would never price-gouge because I would hope no one would do that to me," said Sandy Yospa, 56. "We try to run this like an old-time pharmacy. We really care."
Pub Date: 5/24/98