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Natural Awakenings Boston

Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center: Meeting a Growing Demand for Customized Prescriptions

Steve Bernardi, pharmacist/co-owner; Omar Allibhai, pharmacist; Jay Huang, pharmacist; John Walczyk, pharmacist/pharmacy manager

Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, in Waltham, has provided customized medications and natural health remedies for people since 1852. Today, this accredited compounding pharmacy is working to meet an increased demand, after a 2012 meningitis outbreak led to the closure of several area compounding pharmacies. Natural Awakenings spoke with owner and pharmacist Steve Bernardi to learn more about the need for customized prescriptions. Bernardi also spoke about the growing number of men who are visiting his pharmacy for their unique health issues.

Can you explain what’s behind the current rush on your business?

There have been several board of pharmacy actions against different businesses and we’re one of the few pharmacies left open that can compound sterile medications. There may have been valid reasons for closing some of those businesses, but regulators are not addressing the need for the availability of compounded medications. We’re afraid that the limited availability of compounded drugs will seriously impact the health and safety of patients who rely on these medications. It’s a frustrating situation, but we’re working hard to meet the demand and ensure that patients have access to the vital medications they need.

So, despite last year’s crisis, the demand is growing for compounded prescriptions?

Yes. Millions of patients depend on compounded medications because they can’t use commercially available drugs for many different reasons, including allergies to preservatives, dyes, flavors and artificial sweeteners. Others need dosages that are not commercially available, and there are children’s medications that need to be taken as a liquid, but that form isn’t on the market. Even veterenarians are having trouble getting medications in the forms they need.

What else is in demand at Johnson Compounding right now?

The New England Allergy Mix is a specialized formula that we had made for us many years ago, and we sell hundreds and hundreds of bottles each year. It’s a homeopathic spray made with the extracts of many different pollens that are native to New England. Our clients have reported a high success rate. A $20 bottle of this mix can last two weeks to two months, depending on how often you use it and, once you get your allergies under control, you use less and less as your symptoms become less severe. It’s a natural way to alleviate allergies without the harsh side effects of commercial medications, such as drowsiness and lethargy.

The other thing we’re seeing in the pharmacy is more bioidentical hormone prescriptions for men and women.

What is behind the increase in hormone replacement therapy for men?

A lot of men in their mid-30s and older are wondering why they feel “off” or tired all the time. Many also notice that their sex drive is decreasing, along with their physical strength, and hormonal deficiencies can be the culprit. It’s good to check the adrenal glands, too, when these symptoms appear, because the adrenals affect the sex hormones and other things down the line. You’ll get much better results if you fix both imbalances. If a man is experiencing these types of symptoms he should have his adrenal function and testosterone levels checked.

What are your male clients saying about their use of bioidentical hormones?

They’re reporting great results. In general, men are becoming more open about these kinds of issues and they’re trying to take better care of themselves. We used to see only women at our lecture series and now the audience is mixed. Another change we’re seeing is a rise in bone density issues with men. One reason is that men take a lot of acidblocking drugs for stomach problems, and that can lead to calcium deficiencies, as can drinking a lot of soda and coffee. Calcium supplementation can help but, again, the adrenals should be checked first. We carry a saliva test that can help to assess the functionality of the adrenal glands. Dr. Gary Kracoff, our pharmacist and naturopathic physician, counsels clients on hormone and endrocrine related issues. He can help to assess test results and recommend supplements.

Steve Bernardi is co-owner and vicepresident of pharmacy at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., in Waltham. For more information, call 781-893-3870 or visit

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