Client Profile – Arif Virji

Arif Virji, Lemarchand Dispensary

I recently had the absolute pleasure of working with Arif and his pharmacy team at Lemarchand Dispensary in Edmonton, Alberta.  Arif has relocated his pharmacy and compounding lab and opened a new facility located in Lemarchand Mansion.  With the implementation deadlines for the ACP Standards for Pharmacy Compounding of Non-sterile Preparations looming, Arif wanted to ensure that he not only met the standards but exceeded them.

I sat down with Arif to discuss his journey towards being one of the most respected compounding pharmacies in Alberta.  Here is what he had to say:

JM: When did you start at Lemarchand Dispensary and why compounding?

AV: I took over Lemarchand Dispensary in September 2009.  It was always a well-known compounding pharmacy in Edmonton, but it had reduced its compounding footprint over the years.  Compounding was never something I had thought about getting into.  This opportunity presented itself and I took it as a challenge.  It was stressful learning about the ownership side of pharmacy as well as diving into a new skill that was essential to the business I was taking over.  There were many times I second guessed my decision, but now I don’t regret a minute of it.  Compounding is now my passion, and nothing is more satisfying than hearing one of my patients or peers compliment a compound that we’ve prepared for them.  

JM: Approximately how many clients do you have in Alberta?

AV: We now have over 100 clients in Alberta.

JM: What is your number one non-sterile compounded preparation?  I assume it is diclofenac gel… after all this is Alberta.

AVDiclofenac is certainly one of the big products we deal with.  We also make a large variety of capsules and other dosage forms that encompasses a significant portion of our business. 

JM: Why did you decide to relocate and renovate?

AV: There is no question that we outgrew our space a few years back.  We were working in a shoebox!  That being said, I knew the new guidelines were coming down the pipeline and I really wanted to use them as a template for designing our new space.  I am so happy we did.  I think our staff really appreciates a spacious, safe, distraction free, state of the art lab in which to do their work.  

JM: Can you describe the importance you place on protecting your pharmacy staff?

AVI think about all the years as a student and pharmacist where we were compounding products out in the open without even a mask!  The new guidelines have forced pharmacies to examine their compounding practices and assess the risk of each chemical that we deal with.  There is no question this was overdue. In all honesty we truly do not know the long-term exposure risk of the APIs we deal with and protecting not only our staff, but our clients, is just plain common sense.  The argument of “well we’ve always done it this way” is short-sighted. 

JM:  The most dangerous phrase in the English language is: “we’ve always done it this way”. Any advice for other existing compounders? New compounders?

AV:  My advice to current compounders is to embrace the new guidelines.  I know they are quite overwhelming and even I have some difficulty interpreting them, but they are designed to protect ourselves and our staff.  Previously there was little to no regulation in our field which is dangerous.  My advice to prospective compounders is…compounding isn’t easy!  It’s not just as simple as buying a hood and a mixer, it’s an art that takes a long time to become proficient at.  I never claim to be an expert but just someone who has a lot of experience.

Watch for exciting things to come at Lemarchand Dispensary.  Something tells me that Arif isn’t content unless he has a big project in the works.