Meg Lamb Shares the Inside Scoop on All Things Veterinary Compounding

From furry paws to feathered friends, Sand Run Pharmacy sees them all. A staple in the Akron, OH community, Sand Run has been serving families since back in the ‘50s. And now, under the leadership of Meg Lamb, it’s become a one-stop-shop for pets, too. 

Forget taking an extra trip to the vet: at Sand Run, you can meet all of your pets’ needs. Simply spot the red brick building, swing open the large white door, and step in to a haven for animals of all kinds.

Inside, you’ll find Meg smiling and serving up custom solutions for cats, dogs, and even exotic animals, like dolphins, penguins, and more.

Sand Run Pharmacy

Sand Run Pharmacy: Old-School But Up-to-Date

Meg Lamb’s journey to pharmacy didn’t start alongside four-legged friends, but she always had them in mind.

As she explains, “My pharmacy background was primarily in hospital care, and I had done some retail on the side, but veterinary compounding was always something that I was interested in growing up.”

All her life, Meg loved caring for animals. But it wasn’t until she opened Sand Run that she was fully able to put that passion into action.

Meg Lamb and her own furry friends

As she explains, “We bought the store in 1989. It was, and still is, what you would call an old-school neighborhood pharmacy.  We have four generations of family members that we take care of, plus their pets — which is a great thing."

Meg goes on, "In the world that we live in now, we have probably every chain known to man within a mile of us, but we still have our own special services. We offer a comfortable, service-oriented feel, but we’re still on top of all of the things that are going on in the healthcare world.”

Among Sand Run's services are vaccinations and immunizations, home delivery, and of course, compounding for every member of the family.

From SeaWorld to Seeing Animals Every Day

While most pharmacies try compounding once they get up and running, Sand Run has been creating custom medicine since the start.

Meg says, “Compounding is always something that I’ve really enjoyed doing. We always offered the odds and ends of it [at Sand Run], and our service kept growing and expanding because fewer and fewer pharmacies were willing to do it. Then we started small by doing veterinary compounding for companion animals, like cats and dogs.”

Sand Run Pharmacy team, from left to right: Jason Sloan, PharmD; Robert Nearhoof, PharmD; Meg Lamb, RPh, FACVP; Tom Lamb, RPh

But one call from the local SeaWorld changed the course of Sand Run’s compounding forever. Meg explains, “Here in the Akron area, we had a SeaWorld that I kept getting questions from. They would call and ask for help on dosing calculations for compounding.”

She continues, with a laugh, “So instead of calculating for a 20-pound animal, I was doing calculations for a 2,000-pound animal.” 

And it was only up from there. Meg says, “After working with SeaWorld, we started looking to do more out-of-the-box dosage forms: because we weren’t just treating cats and dogs anymore: we had whales, we had exotic birds, we had penguins. So that’s when [our veterinary compounding] all really expanded.”

Soon after, other organizations, like the Akron Zoo, started reaching out to Sand Run for help. Before long, Meg knew that she would have to jump feet-first into vet compounding. To get prepared, she completed extensive training at the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists (ACVP), as well as courses at the Professional Compounding Centers of America (PCCA).

Meg recalls, “It was a lot of trial and error, and there was a learning curve with it. Animals aren’t just smaller or larger versions of humans. There are a lot of things that humans can tolerate that animals can’t, so we have to be more restrictive when dealing with animals than we are when we’re dealing with humans.” 

It took some time, but with the proper training in place, Meg was ready to meet the needs of all her patients: human or otherwise.

Meg’s Favorite Patients: Lemurs

Today, Sand Run Pharmacy sees all kinds of animals with all kinds of conditions and in need of all kinds of treatment. Every day is different, but to Meg, that’s what keeps it exciting.

The most common conditions Meg treats are hypothyroidism (especially in cats), infections, skin conditions, and behavioral issues. Dosage forms include everything from liquids to suspensions to topicals to transdermal medications.

When Meg creates treatments, though, she isn’t only focused on making them effective but on making them palatable. That’s because Meg knows that it doesn’t matter how good a treatment is if an animal can’t get it down.

Meg says, “When we make a capsule for an animal, we want the capsule to be filled with something that smells good or tastes good. Otherwise, the animal might not swallow it or they’ll spit it out. So we try to make sure that there’s something in there that’s appetizing.”

Meg’s most frequent patients are still cats and dogs, but she spends a lot of time working with animals at the Akron Zoo, where Sand Run continues to lend a hand. At the zoo, Meg treats mammals, reptiles, and everything in-between: but her favorite patients might just be lemurs.

Meg emphasizes, “Lemurs are one of the most fun animals that we medicate. They have characteristics that are very humanlike, and sometimes their treatment will reflect that. Like people, they can have behavioral issues, or they can have anxiety, or they can be particular about what they like and don’t like. So they’re one of my favorites to treat.”

What Could Be More Rewarding?

No matter who she’s treating, though, Meg takes great pride in caring for Akron’s community: both those with two legs and those with four. Animals are one of Meg’s lifelong passions, and with veterinary compounding, she’s able to make a difference in their lives — and the lives of their owners. What could be more rewarding?

Meg shares a story to illustrate this point:

“We had an animal recently come in that had gone to a specialist. It was an older animal, and the owner had been struggling because the animal wasn’t eating, but they weren’t quite ready to let go. So the owner asked if we could try to help. I made a compound for the animal and the owner later called to tell me, ‘This is the first thing I’ve gotten my animal to take in weeks. She takes the medication, and then when she’s feeling better, she’s able to eat.’ And, I mean, it was just a weight off of their shoulders. Animals are like people. They’re like family members.

And, for Meg, it even goes beyond her patients.

Meg uses vet compounding as a way to get out in the community and connect with new faces. Not only does she partner with the Akron Zoo, but she hosts pet expos and pet safety programs for kids in Akron.

In Sand Run’s monthly newsletter, she also touches on pet safety in order to spread awareness. And, of course, she always welcomes animals into the pharmacy and loves meeting her patients face-to-face.

Meg in the Sand Run booth at a local pet expo

As she puts it, “It’s all fun outreach for the pharmacy, and it’s our way of including our animals — our furry friends — in the pharmacy world.”

Your Guide to Compounding: Find a Need, Fill a Need

Veterinary compounding isn’t only rewarding; it’s profitable. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that pet owners spent over $100B on their pets in 2020 — and nearly half of that was spent on vet products and OTC sales.

And because it’s such a niche market, you can drive in sales and help your pharmacy stand out. If you’re already offering compounding, Meg says that opportunity is knocking on your door.

Meg at another pet expo (spot the turtle?)

If you’re looking to get started, Meg instructs, “You can start with basic compounding, then you can transfer that knowledge into veterinary practice and go from there.” Training from ACVP or PCCA can get you up to par in your veterinary knowledge. 

But before you get started, Meg suggests that you stop and take a look around at your community. Consider all the animals you have around you, then let that shape your services.

For Meg, “We have a zoo close by, and we have people with a lot of companion animals. So we have an opportunity to work with both. But if you live in a more rural area, you might have an opportunity to work with equine or farm animals, which has a different set of regulations.”

In short, Meg says, “The best approach to compounding is to look at what your neighborhood needs and to figure out how to meet those needs. I think that’s how our pharmacy has continued to grow: to give our community what they’re looking for.”

Veterinary compounding is one of the most promising clinical opportunities in 2022. With practice, persistence, and the right training, you can start your own program in no time. Take Meg Lamb’s lead, and take care of all of the patients in your community (including furry and feathered ones).

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