Waxahachie Pharmacy hits the ground running amid pandemic

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Privately-owned pharmacy formulates hand sanitizer as shortages loom.

Starting a business just as pandemic stay-at-home orders were issued would normally spell disaster for an entrepreneur, but not for Murali Narra.

picture of waxahachie pharmacist Murali Narra
Murali Narra

That’s because as owner of the compounding pharmacy, Waxahachie Pharmacy which opened just months before Covid19 hit the U.S., Narra had the training and resources to take on the shortage of personal hygiene products at every other store by formulating his own hand sanitizer and essentially offering it at cost.

Specified by the CDC as a backup to frequent hand washing whenever soap and water aren’t an option, properly formulated hand sanitizer serves to wipe hands clean and hamper the spread of the novel coronavirus. To make it, Narra and his staff scoured Dallas-area liquor stores to find the right ingredients. The final product would need at least a 60% alcohol content to kill the virus, so Narra bought up all the high-proof alcohol he found and returned back at his store to make his first batch.

“We were getting lot of phone calls and people walking in looking for hand sanitizer, and my primary wholesaler was completely out and it’s on backorder with no release date,” Narra says.

Narra’s specially formulated hand sanitizer.

So, Narra put his decade of experience as a compounding pharmacist to work, mixed in a variety of components to formulate a hand sanitizer with 70% alcohol, just to be on the safe side, and began offering it at his pharmacy for $3.99 per 120 ml bottle.

“With all the ingredients and labor, we don’t make any money making,” Narra adds. “I made 200 bottles for my first batch, and it sold out the next day.”

Since then, he’s made several more batches and continues to see his inventory fly out the door. His can-do approach to solving a local problem emphasizes the importance of Waxahachie having a compounding pharmacy.

Typical chain and grocery store pharmacies move pills and liquid medications from big containers into smaller containers for each customer. They can answer questions and watch out for potentially bad prescription interactions, but only a compounding pharmacy can take what’s available and convert it into new forms.

Whether it’s adding candy flavor to a child’s prescription, reformulating a medication to avoid allergens, turning a pill into a liquid, or adjusting the dosage of a human formula to match what a veterinarian has prescribed for a kitten, Narra has the resources and equipment to follow a doctor’s off-label instructions.

picture of waxahachie pharmacy pharmacist and technician
Waxahachie Pharmacy offer free home delivery for many prescriptions.

But what Narra says sets his pharmacy apart is pricing.

“The advantage with us compared to other compounding pharmacies is that we are lot cheaper than any other pharmacy in the area. If the medication is too expensive, a patient won’t take the medication regularly and compliance decreases, so we offer medication for the cheapest price, which increases compliance,” Narra says. “I have people come in who were paying $800 per month at chain pharmacies when they can get their medications for $90 here — not one, but a lot of customers.”

As the son of a farmer, Narra says he feels a great sense of identity with people who are living on a limited income. The priority in his business mission is therefore to get people what they need first, and then earn just enough to keep the doors open.

“I know how hard it is to choose between putting food on the table for the family [and paying for expensive prescriptions], and some people won’t take their medication because they can’t afford them,” Narra says. “My mom is undergoing treatment for cancer, and I know how important the medications are to prevent side effects from chemo. I will do everything I can to help a patient In need.”

Additionally, the pharmacy offers vaccinations, health care equipment such as blood pressure monitors, and a variety of home care accessories ranging from crutches and canes to bath benches, walkers and wheelchairs.

picture of waxahachie pharmacy pill pack
Weekly pill packs help customers remember to take their pills.

For customers who must remember to take several medications throughout the day, Narra can package prescriptions up into a daily pill pack that groups pills into morning, noon, evening and bedtime packets. Each planner covers a week, and Narra offers the service at no extra charge.

And as service that’s skyrocketed in demand since stay-at-home policies have been enacted, free home delivery is available within a 20-mile range of the store, which covers Waxahachie and the towns in its immediate vicinity.

picture of waxahachie pharmacy pharmacist
Waxahachie Pharmacy offers many prescriptions for less than what chain pharmacies charge.

Narra says he’s only been a part of the community for a little over six months, but already he feels an urge to give back to the town he’s come to appreciate. His store hasn’t broken even yet, but he’s dedicated what he can to support local non-profits.

“I am donating a little at a time to Waxahachie Care, but as my business improves I want to help them more and help local charities,” Narra says. “I came to know about them from an elderly customer who is on Social Security and getting $800 a month and paying $650 in rent. With her insurance and all other bills, she has nothing left to pay for food and the only way she can eat is by getting food from Waxahachie Care. It made me so sad, and once I start making expenses for my business I will donate more and more to them.”

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