• FAQs Regarding Supplement Purity and Quality at Pharmaca

    Folic AcidIn response to a recent investigation by Frontline and the NY Times calling into question the purity and safety of dietary supplements, Pharmaca has developed the following to help answer common customer questions.

    Should I be taking supplements?
    We believe that dietary and herbal supplements can be an integral part of a good health regimen, but they must be of the highest quality and purity in order to serve their purpose. That’s why Pharmaca adheres to stringent quality standards when selecting supplements for sale.

    Why should I trust the purity of supplements on Pharmaca’s shelves?
    We have deep expertise in the field of herbal supplements and understand there is a wide range in quality of products in the marketplace. It is for that reason that we have put in place a Vendor Quality Assurance Program (VQAP) designed specifically to vet our suppliers and their products. This program follows guidelines outlined in the FDA Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act, FDA 21 CFR 111 cGMP guidelines and USDA Organic standards.

    What is the Vendor Quality Assurance Program?
    We want to be the trusted editor for our customers when it comes to the quality of our vitamins and supplements, and the VQAP offers a framework for us to do so.

    Through the VQAP, all of the herbal and dietary supplement brands that Pharmaca carries are evaluated for their use of current Good Manufacturing Practice standards, for the purity and potency of ingredients, and for their formulations and efficacy.

    We also perform periodic verification of our vendors’ quality practices via on-site audits and self-audit questionnaires, which forces our supplement manufacturers to be completely transparent about their processes.

    The VQAP self-audit questionnaires are reviewed using a graded approach to determine the level of quality practices the supplier has in place. Missing answers to the critical questions show potential adulteration and/or contamination problems with materials/products supplied. These questions deal with information about the vendor’s quality control personnel, specifications and related testing of raw materials/finished products, possible contamination of materials/products due to inadequate sanitation practices, inability to substantiate label information, and non-compliance with current food labeling regulations for potential allergens. If the vendor’s answers indicate possible contamination/adulteration issues with materials/products, the use of the vendor will be rejected.

    Are there any other factors that go into your product selection?
    In choosing our supplements, we also rely heavily on the expertise of our in-store practitioners and Integrative Health Advisory Board—made up of both medical and naturopathic doctors—who are well-versed in the use and efficacy of different supplements and brands.

    Pharmaca also partners with brands of like mind, those that have a demonstrated history of using pure, efficacious ingredients. Some of these also qualify as “professional brands” that have been developed—and are in use—in doctors’ clinical practices.

    Does it make a difference that Pharmaca’s staff includes licensed practitioners?
    Yes. Our licensed pharmacists, naturopaths, herbalist and nutritionists are responsible for offering our customers sound counseling on the proper use of dietary supplements, and that they remain compliant with the government’s DSHEA regulations as they do so. Practitioners also undergo rigorous ongoing training to ensure they are up to date on the latest research concerning our brands and ingredients. The presence of all types of practitioners—both conventional and alternative—also allows us to provide a balanced, “integrative” approach that is not found in other vitamin and supplement retailers.

  • Don't forget to use your FSA funds before December 31


    If you enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA) as part of your health coverage in 2015, now’s the time to use up that savings—before December 31!

    By purchasing eligible products with your pre-tax dollars, you can save approximately 20 to 40 percent on out-of-pocket health expenses. However, the "use it or lose it" principle applies to these savings plans. For most, FSA-qualified purchases and expenses must take place before the end of the year, but patients are given a grace period—until March 15 of the following year—during which they can submit their request for reimbursements. (Note: Some providers now offer 15-month FSA cycles; check with your provider to see if you may be able to continue using your funds past the end of of the year.)

    Here are a few common ways to spend FSA dollars:

    • Prescriptions
    • Co-pays for doctor’s visits
    • X-rays and lab tests
    • Dental and orthodontic work
    • Contact lenses and reading glasses
    • Physical therapy, acupuncture and psychologist fees

    By now you probably know that many over-the-counter drugs require a prescription to be eligible for FSA reimbursement. That means if you're used to using your FSA to purchase common allergy meds such as Claritin, acid controllers like Pepcid AC or even common cold and flu remedies like Robitussin, you'll need a prescription.

    That also means that FSA debit cards will not work at the register for purchases of prescription-required items (even if you have a prescription). Just talk to your doctor ahead of time, pay for these items out of pocket and submit a reimbursement claim.

    Read more about eligible expenses, or contact your benefits administrator to learn more about the FSA specifications under your insurance plans. And as always, feel free to ask a Pharmaca practitioner for health advice or product recommendations.

    Creative Commons License, photo credit: bibliojojo

  • A Special Thanks from Vitamin Angels

    Since 2004, Pharmaca has been a proud partner of Vitamin Angels, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help at-risk populations in need--specifically pregnant women, new mothers and children under 5--gain access to life saving and life-changing micronutrients. Donations to Vitamin Angels go toward distribution of prenatal vitamins, vitamin A and children's multivitamins, which help increase immunity and boost overall health to increase these populations' chances for health and success.

    In addition to the Vitamin Angels donations cards always available at the register (ask a Pharmaca Team Member if you can't find them), Pharmaca runs several special promotions each year to encourage customer donations. We're proud to say that through the generosity of our customers, we were able to donate more than $20,000 in 2012, enough to serve more than 82,000 children in the US and 49 other countries. We hope that you'll help us contribute to our growing 2013 contribution next time you're at a Pharmaca store!

    Below, Vitamin Angels staff member Kelsey speaks to us from Honduras, where Vitamin Angels is working with Feed the Children to provide both food and nutrients.

  • Preview Dr. Tieraona Low Dog's New Book: Life Is Your Best Medicine

    Integrative Health Advisory Board member Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, just released her latest book, Life Is Your Best Medicine: A Woman's Guide to Health, Healing and Wholeness at Every Age. Published by National Geographic, the book weaves together the wisdom of traditional medicine and the expertise of modern-day medicine to explore the best in integrative health.

    Find the book in Pharmaca stores now, or at

  • Review a product (or two) and enter to win $100 in shopping!

    C’mon, tell us how you really feel. We all use product reviews as a good way to gauge whether or not it's going to work for us. So help us (and other customers) out by reviewing the products you've used from! Love a product? Let them know. Didn’t work for you? Tell us why.

    As an incentive, we're giving away five $100 gift cards to randomly selected reviewers who post their reviews on by April 4. You can submit up to FIVE different reviews, and you’ll be entered FIVE times!


    The fine print:
    -You must be logged in to your account to submit a review. If you're a store customer and have never purchased anything from our site before, you'll need to set up an online account.
    -Up to five entries, on different products, per person/account will be counted toward the drawing.
    -Please, submit only real opinions about products you have personal experience with.
    -Five lucky winners will be randomly chosen on April 9 to receive $100 in shopping at and will be notified by email.

  • Pharmaca's model and the future of integrative medicine

    In a recent Huffington Post article by Marc Stoiber entitled "Who will own the brand of integrative medicine?", Pharmaca CEO Mark Panzer talked about Pharmaca's integrative approach to the pharmacy:

    “The common US model is one pharmacist, and a bunch of clerks stocking shelves. In our case, we have the highly trained pharmacist, but also highly skilled practitioners with homeopathic or naturopathic backgrounds. No one expert has the full answer. Instead, we collaborate to offer our customers a more holistic approach to managing their health.“

    Other experts talk about the ways in which conventional and alternative medicines are increasingly coming together in various health care settings, a necessary shift given our currently overburdened health care system.

    The article, also published on Stoiber's personal website, garnered some interesting feedback from a reader, who worries that the integrative concept won't work "until the FDA steps in and regulates the quality and potency of each product."

    Here's what Don Summerfield, Pharmaca's vice president of integrative medicine, had to say:

    "Guaranteeing dietary supplement product quality is becoming easier as the natural products industry matures. The FDA has instituted its long-awaited good manufacturing practices (GMP) guidelines, which will go a long way towards ensuring quality dietary supplements are manufactured under FDA regulations.

    Pharmaca has gone a step further by developing our own Quality Assurance Program that certifies our dietary supplement vendors. The program was developed in partnership with our Integrative Health Advisory Board members, who are leading medical doctors in the field of integrative medicine. We’re proud to say that even in the absence of significant FDA regulation, Pharmaca helps to take to worry out of shopping for natural medicine products."

    As always, Pharmaca is happy to provide guidance and products that our customers can trust.

  • Potassium iodide and radiation exposure protection

    Because of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, many people on the west coast of the US are now worried that they could be impacted by the threat of nuclear radiation coming across the Pacific. The concern is that a nuclear disaster may release radioactive iodine into the air, which, when taken in by the thyroid gland, can increase your risk of thyroid cancer. (A definite concern: Evidence from the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl showed a significant increase in thyroid cancer among those living in the radiation area, especially among children.)

    It’s important to note that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a statement on Sunday, March 13, that it currently foresees no harmful levels of radiation reaching the US. That being said, if you’re still concerned about potential radiation, here is some information from the Food & Drug Administration about the uses and dosages of potassium iodide as a preventive treatment for radiation exposure to the thyroid.

    According to the FDA, potassium iodide can help reduce the chances that the thyroid will absorb radioactive iodine (though potassium iodide does not protect against other complications from radiation exposure).

    The FDA estimates the protective effects of potassium iodide to last only 24 hours, so daily dosing during the exposure period is important.

    Here are the FDA-recommended dosages:*

    Exposures greater than 5 centigrays (cGy)*:
    Birth through 1 month: 16 mg
    1 month through 3 years: 32 mg
    3 years through 18 years: 65 mg
    (NOTE: Adolescents over 150 pounds should take adult dose)

    Exposures greater than 10 cGy:
    18 years through 40 years: 30 mg

    Exposures greater than 500 cGy:
    Adults over 40 years: 130 mg

    *Taking iodine in amounts greater than 1,100 mcg per day should be monitored by a healthcare professional. Sensitivity reactions to iodine include angioedema, fever, joint pain, lymph node enlargement, eosinophilia, rash or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

    Our practitioners caution that taking too much potassium iodide can lead to other health risks, so speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about alternative therapies that might be helpful.

  • Welcome to Project Wellness!

    Pharmaca is pleased to announce its new forum for all of the latest news in integrative health: Project Wellness. We'll keep you up to date about research in vitamins, supplements and medications, talk about our favorite products and get expert opinions from our licensed holistic practitioners.

    We hope you'll use this forum to ask questions of the integrative health community, our practitioners and to share your opinions about our products. Come in, feel better!

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