Rich DeGarmo has been a pharmacist for more than 50 years, with half of that time spent as a traditional pharmacist — counting out pills and handing them across the counter to the customer — while the latter half of his career has been spent compounding, actually making prescription medications that can’t be found elsewhere for people and pets.
DeGarmo, 74, made the switch in Olympia.
After running a franchise pharmacy operation for a few years, DeGarmo decided to opt out of that arrangement and open his own business, focused almost exclusively on compounding.
The work gets him closer to the science of chemistry that has always fascinated him since he was a child, he said, and he has more interaction with the patient, which previously was nothing more than counting out pills.
Fifty percent of his business is making medications for pets, while the other half is devoted to people. Examples include potassium bromide for dogs suffering from epilepsy and a cream for cats that have hyperthyroid symptoms.
Cat owners already know all too well the experience of trying to give a cat an oral medication that doesn’t involve losing your arm, so the cream can be placed on the “pinna” of the cat’s ear that is then immediately absorbed into the cat’s bloodstream, DeGarmo said.
He also has developed medications for rats, ferrets, rabbits and birds.
For people, his most common medication is called bio-identical hormone replacement therapy for women, which helps offset symptoms associated with menopause, he said.
Another common medication is for men that treats erectile dysfunction. The medication is called tri-mix — three medications combined into one solution — that is then self-administered by injection.
DeGarmo’s has more than 200 customers, ages 40 to 90, who need the medication because traditional over-the-counter erectile dysfunction medications did not work, he said.
Tim’s Pharmacy of Yelm owner Tim Larsen has been in business for 34 years. He, too, offers compounding, but not to the degree that DeGarmo does.
He said there is a “brotherhood” among compounding pharmacists because they sometimes rely on each other for chemicals and formulas. He also has called on DeGarmo’s expertise when he has needed help with something he has never made before.
“I’ve known him since we began and we have always had a good relationship,” Larsen said.
DeGarmo’s Compounding Pharmacy
Owners: Rich and Susan DeGarmo
Location: 1907 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia
Service: A compounding pharmacy makes prescription medications that aren’t commonly available for people and pets.
Advice to business owners: Make sure you have a burning desire to go into business, or don’t do it, Rich DeGarmo said.
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday
Did you know? DeGarmo has been a pharmacist for more than 50 years, and half of that time has been spent in Olympia at his store near Harrison Avenue and Division Street. After graduating from the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, DeGarmo made stops in Denver; San Diego; Chico, Calif.; and then Olympia. He originally is from Berkeley, Calif.
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