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Pharmacist Nazlin Khamis transformed Chilliwack Pharmasave – here’s how

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Nazlin Khamis’s transformation of Chilliwack Pharmasave from a traditional community pharmacy into a specialty compounding, natural and home health destination has evolved over nearly three decades and a series of four renovations and reorganizations.

By Talbot Boggs

Khamis graduated in England and came to live and work in Chilliwack, a city of 80,000 people 100 km east of Vancouver. “Over the years, the market began to change,” says Khamis, who owns the pharmacy with her husband, George Mathew. “Diseases like diabetes were starting to come to the forefront, big box retailers and chain pharmacies were starting to move in, and people’s expectations of what a pharmacy should be were starting to change. We never intentionally set out to move away from being a traditional pharmacy it just happened. But I realized that if we were going to be a speciality pharmacy, then we had to offer specialty products and services in a special environment.”

Between 1995 and 2010, Khamis invested about half a million dollars in a series of three renovations. The first, in 1995, involved the addition of a 250 sq. ft. compounding laboratory and an expansion of the dispensary to help service an office of physicians in the neighbourhood, as well as the addition of a fitting room and private consultation room to provide one-on-one consultations.

Compounding expansion

The second, in 2000, was more extensive. It involved changing the flooring and overall décor, a further expansion to the compounding lab and the addition of a sterile hood, a reorganization of the store to open up more floor space, and the creation of a separate natural health section.

The third, in 2010, involved another expansion of the compounding lab to its current size of 600+ sq. ft. and addition of a particle hood, new light fixtures, and a second private consulting room off the dispensary, which was reorganized to improve work flow. “By that time we were branding ourselves as a holistic compounding pharmacy,” says Khamis.

Khamis developed her compounding knowledge and natural and home healthcare specialization over several years. Along with her key staff she travelled to Texas to take courses and became a certified member of the Professional Compounding Centres of America, and attended various educational conferences and seminars to increase their knowledge and understanding of natural health products and home healthcare.

Along with her key staff she began to actively market the pharmacy’s compounding capability locally and even visited hospitals and doctors as far away as Vancouver to promote the growing specialties offered in the store. “We do a lot of very sophisticated compounds for cancer patients, specialized pain creams, capsules, suspensions, nasal sprays,  injectables and special age-appropriate doses used by the sick children’s hospital in Vancouver,” she says. “We use out-of-the-box thinking to find individualized solutions.”

Home healthcare expansion

Recognizing the growth in demand for home healthcare products and services, Khamis and her husband started the Fraser Valley Rehab Shop in 1992, a stand-alone, 5,000+ sq. ft. full service store about five or 10 minutes away from the pharmacy that offers a complete range of home healthcare products including wheelchairs, hospital beds and other equipment.

Khamis has added some other specialities such as ostomy care and wound care management, diabetes education and assistance for women who are breast feeding, blister packaging to service several assisted living facilities and other care homes in the immediate area as well as in neighbouring communities

And she has created and presents a series of very popular educational seminars. Moveable displays in the store can easily be relocated to create space for up to 100 people theatre-style to attend presentations on topics such as hormone imbalances, dealing with stress, adrenal fatigue, making healthy lifestyle choices easier, healthy sleep, detoxification, ways to reduce fatigue and increase energy, and thyroid disorders.

Khamis supplements her focus on helping to educate her customers about health lifestyle and wellness choices with a major supply of natural health products and supplements. “We offer products that help people make healthy choices,” Khamis says. “A lot of our supplements you wouldn’t find anywhere else except in a naturopathic office. They are professional grade.”

Her largest renovation came in 2013 when she completed a $1 million upgrade to the building in which she’s located, remodelling the exterior in a “West Coast Whistler style,” updating the parking lot, adding a medical clinic with five doctors, bringing in new health-related retail tenants and renovating apartments on the second floor for rent to seniors over 55, thereby creating a true health destination.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Khamis’s business has been growing by an average of about 10 to 15 percent a year, a pretty good record of growth, she says, when pharmacy revenues and margins are being squeezed by increased competition and lower generic drug prices. “We’ve been able to hold our own and even grow through some difficult times by making ourselves into a resource and a destination that’s not available in other pharmacies, keeping up with the times and creating a strong brand.”