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Pawleys Compounding Pharmacy: Pills with a personal touch

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Lewis Waldrep, operator of the new Pawleys Island Compounding Pharmacy on Highway 17, says there is an art to mixing medicine.

And it’s the challenge of finding a way to go beyond the science and help patients that brought him into partnership with his old friend Glenn Cox at Pawleys Island Pharmacy.

“If you just did the science,” Waldrep said, “you would take the box, put a label on it and sell it. The art in the science is to take the active ingredients and compile it in a manner in which the patient needs it. For instance, it’s not uncommon to deal with hospice patients at their end stage. Rather than have a nurse at the house giving injections, I make a transdermal gel and put the active medication in it so that someone can basically have dignity in their last days. A caregiver can rub it into the skin.”

A compounding pharmacy is a specialty shop for sure. “My pharmacy is a cross between a doctor’s office and a chemical lab,” Waldrep said. “I’m not out distributing, and I’m not making large quantities. It might be someone needing wound care whose medications haven’t been helping, or they may be allergic to a component of a medication. I will take the active ingredient, and I can utilize my knowledge.”

Waldrep likes the fact that his craft combines modern technology with science from as far back as the 1920s. He pulls a small tray of tiny wax pills from a refrigerator as an example. They are called troches and combine an active medication with a digestible wax that dissolves under the tongue.

“With a troche,” Waldrep said, “you essentially bypass the stomach. Medication goes directly into the bloodstream. People who have had throat surgery can’t swallow. People on radiation get nauseated. It’s a way of taking active ingredients and enhancing them. You have to know the properties of the drugs and the appropriate base.”

Waldrep also does veterinary medicine. His secret is adding a drop of concentrated fish, chicken or tuna flavor. “If I get a drop on me,” he said, “that dog will be all over me.”

Waldrep and Cox became friends in the 1980s. “My wife and I were going to open a Medicine Shoppe in Conway,” Waldrep said. “I came down here and didn’t know a soul. Glenn let me fill in at his place, and we’ve stayed friends — vacations, Christmas cards, the whole thing.”

Waldrep’s plans didn’t work out in Conway, and he bought a drugstore in his hometown of Greenwood and ran it until 1988. He went into pharmaceutical research, sales and marketing for 20 years but lost his job in a corporate downsizing just before retirement.

After taking a year off, Waldrep thought about returning to sales but didn’t want to leave South Carolina.

He worked as a hospital pharmacist at Fort Jackson before calling Cox with his idea of opening a compounding pharmacy.

The space next to Pawleys Island Pharmacy became available — it had been a hair salon — and things seemed to fall into place.

“I literally have been working 12 to 14 hours a day putting this place together,” Waldrep said. “I want to make it everything I thought a pharmacy should be. The time and effort I’ve put into this has been almost overwhelming, but I had a chance once in my life to do it the right way. Unfortunately, you are at the end of your career before you recognize the right way.”

Waldrep said his road from small town pharmacist to corporate research and sales led him to Pawleys Island.

“Glenn Cox is an exceptionally respected person,” Waldrep said. “He absolutely cuts no corners and has allowed me to do it the right way. If there’s a question, he wants to make sure it’s done right.”

Their only point of contention comes from the fact that Waldrep is a 1977 graduate of the University of South Carolina, and Cox is one of the biggest Clemson fans around.

“I asked him to hold a Gamecock mascot for a picture,” Waldrep said, “and he said, ‘It’ll never happen.’ He came over the next day and brought me a miniature tiger.”

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