Compounding pharmacist finds the right mix
CARROLLWOOD - For 22 years, Dan Fucarino has helped North Tampa people feel better. From behind the counters of Carrollwood Pharmacy and Compounding Center, pharmacist Fucarino and his staff have become known for their skill at melding medicines. Compounding pharmacists mix and customize drugs and prescriptions onsite for customers. Before mass production of medications became common, compounding was a routine activity among pharmacists. In December, Fucarino and 10 employees moved from 10205 Lake Carroll Way about one mile north to 11775 N. Dale Mabry Highway. Their new, $100,000, state-of-the-art compounding facility and pharmacy includes — among other amenities — 12,000 worth of scales, and an electronic mortar and pestle.Fucarino, 58, moves to the new center with more than two decades of the science of compounding and a legion of customers who have come to depend on his expertise in customized medications. On a recent workday, Fucarino watched his certified pharmacy technicians mix and fill prescriptions. The 1979 Mercer University pharmacy school graduate said he became interested in compounding after working as a pharmacist at University Pharmacy in Temple Terrace from 1979 to 1986. "I thought it would be something I'd like to do. I always liked chemistry and I think I'm inventive by nature so it seemed like a perfect fit," said Fucarino, a Tampa native who comes from a family of pharmacists. In his new location, which at 2,500 square feet is 500 square feet larger than his previous store, Fucarino's staff compounds drugs for doctors as well as for veterinarians. His work for veterinarians is about 40 percent of his business. He said crafting medicines that animals will consume sometimes is challenging. "You have to make them flavorful or smell right. We have 50 different flavors for pets and we have medicine for cats we just put on their skin and it's absorbed. They don't have to take it orally," he said. Fucarino, who works with his wife, Laura, and son, Andrew, said about 1,000 of the average 2,000 prescriptions his team fills month are compounded. He said each prescription takes about an hour to put together and can range from $45 for hormone medicinal treatments to $2,000 for a rare veterinary prescription. He said compounded drugs aren't billed to insurance companies and costs are based on the price of the ingredients. In the new pharmacy, prescriptions are made and filled in a capsule room, moved through a sterile prep room and logged in a data storage facility ensuring orders are filled quickly, correctly and safely. Veterinarian Antonio Flores has been getting medicine from Carrollwood Pharmacy since 1993. Back then, he said, Fucarino was the only compounding pharmacist in North Tampa. Although there now are others, Flores said Fucarino and his staff take special care to properly concoct medicines. "He's certified and has a sterile facility for the compounding. I've always felt comfortable dealing with them there," said Flores of Bearss Animal Clinic. Carrollwood internist Patrick Capri said Fucarino and his staff are the "best, bar none." Practicing in Tampa since 1984, he said, Fucarino's prescriptions and experience make for precise "functional, personalized medicine." "He makes them the way I want them made," Capri said. Fucarino said his career in Carrollwood had been rewarding. "You have to be able to deliver a product and service that makes someone feel good about spending their money and is a worthwhile investment," he said. "Some people thought I was crazy to get into this, but I thought it made sense."