James Blackburn made two big life changes in the past few months.
For one, he became a father. Secondly, he opened a business, Blackburn Drug, a pharmacy at 150 Scott Lane. That’s a lot for anyone in such a short time, but Blackburn is adjusting.
“Now that a couple months of each has gone past, I’m sure my son is going to continue to be a huge challenge and adventure — and so is this place — but it’s getting easier, less stressful,” he said.
Jackson has several pharmacies already, but Blackburn Drug is unique because it is the only compounding pharmacy. Instead of stocking the shelves with bottles of factory-made pills in standard doses, Blackburn makes medications to order.
Buying active ingredients from suppliers, he can create medicines in any dosage or format a patient needs, rather than the standard doses manufacturers provide. For example, take Lipitor, a cholesterol medication.
For most patients the standard starting dose is 10 milligrams to 20 milligrams each day, though it varies based on patients’ needs. If someone needed less than 10 milligrams a dose, they would come to Blackburn.
“I could get the Lipitor in a powder, and I could then make that,” he said. “It’s individualized medicine for individual patients.”
What Blackburn offers is not all that common. According to the American Pharmacists’ Association, of the roughly 56,000 community pharmacies in the United States, around 7,500 specialize in compounding, so about 13%.
Blackburn has offered the service in Jackson for a long time, having worked at Stone Drug for nearly a decade, switching between compounding medicines and filling standard prescriptions. Demand for compounding services was higher than he could meet, given that he also had to run Stone Drug’s regular pharmacy, he said, so he had to turn away half of the customers looking for custom medicines.
At the new pharmacy he’s not filling regular prescriptions, which gives him time to fill all the compounding orders that come his way.
“I’ve built up a business” from his time at Stone Drug, he said. “Those people are still coming to me, but also I’m able to go and market myself to different doctors, so we’re getting a lot of new business every day.”
One avenue his distributors tell him will pick up is veterinary medicine, an area of business that he previously had not pursued. Cats, dogs and horses, among other pets and working animals, often take medicines approved for humans, like Prozac for anxiety or gabapentin for nerve pain.
Most animals aren’t the size of humans, so compounding can deliver the exact dose they need based on size and medical condition. Blackburn said he has just started reaching out to veterinary clinics and expects to see that side ramp up.
Compounded medicines aren’t the only things Blackburn Drug sells. His lab is in the back, but the front end has a small retail outfit with natural products like sunscreen and supplements. For new parents like himself, he stocks Fridababy, a line of baby care products he says will “explode” once people discover them in Jackson.
Though not every patient will need his services, the ones who do would be in a bind without a place like Blackburn Drug. He’s excited to see the business grow as more people discover him.
“It’s getting good reviews,” he said, “and I think it’s only going to get better.”