On a recent Thursday afternoon, Ngozi Benyard, PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy), was working behind the counter at 3D Wellness Pharmacy, when she looked up and saw a car pulling into the parking lot outside.
“I think Mr. Santacruz is here,” she called to her assistant, Danielle Malone. “Can you please bring me his medications?”
Sure enough, a few moments later, José Santacruz walked into the pharmacy, and Ngozi had his medications waiting for him.
“She takes an interest in me,” José says of his pharmacist. “They’re so friendly, and the service is more personalized than at other pharmacies.”
That’s what Ngozi says is the “third dimension in care” referred to in the name of the pharmacy she opened in the Freedom Plaza on S.R. 54 (next to Bosco’s Italian-To-Go), about a mile east of Saddlebrook, in November of last year. Ngozi says that third dimension is two-fold. First, it’s the above-and-beyond level of service you can expect if you get your medications there. (It’s pretty much guaranteed that the pharmacist at the local big box retailer isn’t looking out the window, awaiting your arrival.) And, she adds, it’s the role that the pharmacist plays in your health care.
“There’s you, your doctor, and the pharmacist,” Ngozi says. “The pharmacist is an integral part of that triad. You might see several doctors, and the pharmacist sees all of the medications that all of your doctors prescribe.”
Ngozi earned her PharmD degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee in 2004. She worked at Tampa General Hospital, and then was the lead pharmacist specializing in infectious diseases — for the entire Central Florida region — for a major retail chain. She and her husband, Jamel, who is a U.S. Navy veteran, are the owners of 3D Wellness Pharmacy.
“Moving up the corporate ladder takes you away from what you learned in school,” says Ngozi. “With my patients now, I know all about them. I know when they go to the hospital and I know what pains them.”
She explains that some pharmacies – especially big chains — often don’t have time to counsel and truly care for their patients. If their queue gets too long, they will hear from their district manager that they’re not fast enough. Ngozi says all that matters at the chain stores is the bottom line.
“Here, we treat you like a patient, not a number,” she says. “We’re your local neighborhood pharmacy, where you can get all of your medications, including compounded medications, and that extra dimension of care.”
She says that also includes holistic care, such as vitamins and supplements for overall wellness. “Certain medications deplete nutrients,” she says, “so I’ll suggest a vitamin. For arthritis, I’ll recommend cherry juice or capsules. For high blood pressure, apple cider vinegar.”
Rxight Genetic Testing
Beyond what you would typically expect from a pharmacy, Ngozi offers additional services to help her patients and give them options they might not have even known were available to them.
She says she is the only pharmacist in Wesley Chapel and surrounding areas that is certified and trained to offer the Rxight (pronounced “Right”) pharmacogenetic test.
“The Rxight test is precision medical test,” explains Ngozi. “It tests more than 200 medications and tells us if your body metabolizes them too fast, which means you’re not getting the efficacy of your medications, or if it’s not metabolizing properly, which is when the medicine accumulates and you get side effects.”
She says that adverse reactions to medicine is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., so getting the proper medications and doses is extremely important, and can sometimes even be lifesaving.
So that we could see exactly how it works, Ngozi offered the Rxight test to Rita McLaughlin, my mother-in-law, who is a great candidate for it because she regularly takes several medications.
Rita stopped in for a quick cheek swab, and the swabs were sent to a lab. About two weeks later, Ngozi received a report and went over the results with Rita.
“It was amazing,” Rita said. “It was a lot more information than I thought it would be. It assured me that the medications I’m taking now are the right ones, and in the right dosages.”
Rita says she found the results to be trustworthy, because they lined up with the experiences she has had with her medications.
“For example, with my cholesterol medication, I had quite a time getting the right one,” she says. “One gave me side effects, another worked, but then my doctor changed the dose and it worked better.”
The medicine she finally ended up with is what the test revealed she should take. That confirmation, along with other information she felt correlated to her experiences, made Rita believe the Rxight test was worthwhile.
“For the future, if I ever need a blood thinner, the results say there are two medications I shouldn’t take,” Rita says. “I would absolutely abide by that.”
As a final step in the process, Rita will be given a wallet-sized card that outlines exactly what she should and should not take, and which doses, to be able to present to a hospital or doctor in time of need. In addition, she has the option to share the report with all of her doctors.
The test is somewhat expensive, at $399, but because it is based on genetics, it is a one-time test that gives results for the rest of your life. It can allow someone to skip over the back-and-forth of trying different medications and different doses to go straight to what medication will be mostly likely to work for them.
“This test is especially great for kids with ADHD,” says Ngozi. “Instead of trying one med that makes them sleepy, and then another where they don’t sleep at all, and then another to wait and see what happens, you can just do this test. Then, your kid isn’t used like a guinea pig to try a whole bunch of different medications.”
She says parents will know definitively what medications will work best for their child with no side effects.
Another great example, she says, is for people who get a blood clot and are put on a blood thinner. Will it work? “You could get another clot in the time it takes to figure out if you’re on the right dose of the right medicine,” Ngozi says. “With this test, you don’t have to guess.”
Ngozi personally goes over the results with each patient, so all of your questions are answered, and she’s able to help you manage your medications with the information from the test.
“We have a focus on women,” says Ngozi, “and we’re especially passionate about new moms.”
Both Ngozi and Danielle are moms to two boys, and both are advocates of breastfeeding.
“Times have changed for breastfeeding moms,” Ngozi says. “Pumps are now covered by insurance, and they are so much more comfortable than they used to be.”
Renting a pump from 3D Wellness Pharmacy includes shipping or delivery and, perhaps the most important thing a new mom needs, encouragement from both Ngozi and Danielle.
The pharmacy also offers a libido enhancement for women that Ngozi calls “scream cream.”
“We hear all about enhancements for men, but why should we be left out?” Ngozi asks. “We often provide (scream cream) for women with fertility issues. You have to have a prescription from your doctor, but you can ask us about it and we can give you the information to discuss with your doctor.”
While it’s not proprietary, Ngozi says that she won’t publicly reveal exactly what’s in the “scream cream.”
“I’m known for compounding it and I’m good at it,” she says with a smile. “We want to be a place where women can come in, see familiar faces, and feel comfortable asking questions.”
While Danielle is new to the pharmacy, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 2003, where she was a pre-med major, from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, and is excited to be helping Ngozi — and the patients — at 3D Wellness Pharmacy.
“Wellness is very intentionally a part of our name and our logo,” explains Danielle. “We want to help you get well and stay well.”
3D Wellness Pharmacy is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and will ship or deliver medications. For more information, visit 3DWellnessPharmacy.com, or call (813) 428-6000.