pdf of this article

For more information about these community pharmacy/education/wellness centers, contact:

Bill Burch, RPh
Jennifer Burch, PharmD
Sejjal Patel, PharmD
Donna Ferrell, RPh
Michael Verble, PharmD
Kayla Harris, PharmD
Ziyad Jabar, PharmD

Mynam Vuong, PharmD
Jhuvon Francis, PharmD


2609 North Duke Street, #103
Durham, NC 27704
Telephone: (919) 220-5121
Fax: (919) 220-6307


6224 Fayetteville Rd, #104
Durham, NC 27713
Telephone: (919) 484-7600

Call to schedule a consultation with our pharmacists.

Dispensing Information
Along with Prescriptions

Under normal circumstances, fewer people filling medication prescriptions might seem to herald a positive health trend. But to Pharmacist Dr. Jennifer Burch, of Central Pharmacy and Central Compounding Center, it instead sounds an alarm—evidence that many people simply aren’t going to the doctor, for new prescriptions or other medical care.

Pharmacist Jennifer Burch (right) looks on as Pharmacy Technician Laura Cooper weighs ingredients for the progesterone cream she is compounding.

And Dr. Burch worries when patients don’t see their doctors, even or particularly when they are sick. “While some routine care may be safely postponed,” she points out, “new symptoms and chronic disease management still need attention, much of it time-sensitive. Someone with uncontrolled diabetes, for example, should not delay care. And there’s no need to delay such care. We, like all medical practices, are taking every precaution to ensure that our patients are safe when seeking care.”

New Protocols and Heightened Responsibilities

Dr. Burch and her team have taken the recommended sanitation and safety steps and more to encourage patients to keep up with prescriptions and other necessary care at Central Pharmacy and Central Compounding Center. For their own and patient safety, they are rigorously screening staff, wearing masks, and social distancing as much as their work allows.
She highlights the extra cleaning they did, even before they moved to curbside (only) service: wiping the doors down after anybody enters or leaves, not allowing clients to touch the register or the credit card machines. And she strongly encourages people to wear a mask, as her entire staff does. They are even making and selling hand sanitizer, along with a limited supply of face masks.

Still she laments, “it’s so difficult trying to fight something that’s invisible!” Her “new normal” includes lots of Zoom meetings and computer webinars. Dr. Burch has used Zoom to resume her individual consults, as well as to host group weight loss and other programs via video conference.

“More and more,” she says “people are relying on these and other on-line mechanisms, and turning to social media for information. And this underscores what I believe is an important responsibility for our practice—and that is to provide good quality, fact-based information.

“Accurate, science-based information is essential in responding to this crisis,” she emphasizes. “And this is a real challenge, because the virus is new, and what we know about it—and about its treatment and prevention—changes on almost a daily basis. What we have learned in the last several months is that masks and social distancing do help prevent its spread. But we still have a lot to learn.

The question of testing for antibodies is a good example, she notes. “There’s much we don’t know about the nature of antibody response and immunity with this virus. And there are a lot of unanswered questions about the testing—including whether the presence of an antibody provides some or any immunity. And the accuracy of such tests is still in question. And, right now, there’s not yet an approved antibody test that the pharmacy is allowed to do,” she explains. Such testing requires both a certification called a CLIA waiver and a CLIA waived test that has been approved through the FDA’s emergency use authorization process.

Although she’s not able to perform COVID antibody testing in the pharmacy yet, Dr. Burch sees that as a next logical step in informing patients, arming them with critical health information in the future “We do think pharmacies are in kind of the perfect position to administer a lot of tests,” she says, with the caveat that the tests must be sensitive and accurate enough to provide useful information.

The Importance of Ongoing Care

But while COVID-19 is the biggest topic lately, permeating every aspect of her work, Dr. Burch stresses that even routine health care can have enormous implications now. With a diabetic patient, for example, not only are they at risk for “typical” diabetic complications, but also for increased COVID-19 complications. Other higher risk groups include people older than 65 and those with heart disease or obesity. So not tending to these conditions can deliver a double whammy in terms of “normal” and not-so-normal illness and complications.

But what about other people—younger people, seeming healthy people, those without known risk factors? “When you read the lists of people who have died,” Dr. Burch points out, “a lot of them are in their twenties and thirties and were otherwise ‘healthy.’”

Looking at it from the functional medicine perspective, Dr. Burch questions whether and how poor diet, poor lifestyle, or poor vitamin status can contribute to the disease and its complications. Researchers are finding a strong correlation between poor vitamin D status, in particular, and mortality rates for COVID-19. But vitamin A, melatonin, zinc, and other nutrients play a part.

And just as these and other factors can help drive healthy immune function, many others can interfere with it. “The high-sugar diet that people eat can knock the immune system down for the next four to six hours,” she cautions. She points out that with everyone stuck at home, eating junk food, it’s actually weakening their defenses. Similarly, a lack of restorative sleep or certain minerals or antioxidants can be a detriment.

She anticipates that tests to examine nutrient status and deeper dives into people’s lifestyle will become more important going forward. “It’s time for people to reflect on their own health,” Dr. Burch stresses, “and what they can do to protect themselves from getting the virus down the road.”

Ultimately, Dr. Burch envisions the current situation as a call to action around true health. “Just because I don’t have a chronic disease and I’m not sick right now, does that mean than I’m healthy?”