My clinical pharmacy career started at Imperial College Hospital, and led to an interest in HIV. Through working as a Specialist HIV Pharmacist at some of the UK’s largest HIV centres, I noticed how keen patients were to use herbs and supplements (alongside lifesaving anti-retrovirals) to maintain their health and well-being. I also realised that there was little tailored support available to help them do this.
Now, after two years of commitment and hard work, Funke has opened her Integrative Pharmacy in Bromley, London…in the midst of a global pandemic! Here she shares why she set up a specialist Integrative Pharmacy….
Decreased funding from the government and the monopolisation of pharmacy by the big multiples in recent years has led to the closure of several local pharmacies and a rise in frustrated pharmacists. On the positive side, it has encouraged creativity and diversification of services by many pharmacists keen to support the health and well-being of their patients as opposed to meeting numerous targets.
Over in the States, they’re slightly ahead of us in terms of service diversification, this may be because of their health system which is void of any public funding. Many started diversifying years ago as it was the only way the small independent pharmacy’s and individual pharmacists could survive and compete with the likes of Amazon. Thus, there has been a significant increase in the number of Integrative Pharmacies set up, together with a significant increase in individual pharmacists practising alternative therapies like aromatherapy and herbalism. Many are also incorporating the principles of ‘Functional Medicine’ into their practises. It was these realisations that led me to consider opening up an Integrative Pharmacy in the UK.
I started putting the plan together whilst working as a Specialist HIV Pharmacist in Europe’s Leading HIV Centre. During this time I had an encounter with a patient that inspired me to learn more about herbalism and focus my efforts on people living with HIV. The patient had asked if it was ok to take some herbs with his HIV medicines for weight gain. Unfortunately the herbs weren’t compatible with his HIV medicines so I advised him to avoid taking them together. The patient came back to me distressed, and demanded I suggest what he can take to gain weight. His last words to me were ‘Please Help Me’. In that moment I realised we, starting with myself, needed to do more to support the health and well-being of people living with HIV.
At the onset of the HIV pandemic, before medications were invented, many patients relied on herbs to keep them alive, and now that we have life saving anti-retrovirals many patients rely on herbs and supplements to maintain their health and well-being. Indeed, there is some justification for this as many HIV medications cause short and long term side effects.
In addition, emerging evidence has shown that although patients living with HIV are living longer, they are also ageing faster and subsequently developing other chronic diseases earlier than most. Herbs and supplements rather than other medications could well be the solution or bridge to the well-being of patients here.
The difficulty with creating the bridge however, would lie in the use of herbs and supplements in an informed way that doesn’t have any detrimental effect on their HIV medications. Thus I decided to embark on a Herbal medicine course. I chose to do it with Bonny at the School of Natural Medicine due to the school’s rich history and the welcoming nature of Bonny. I did this because I felt the need to learn about herbal medicine from a herbalist and traditional perspective rather than a scientific perspective which I had gained previously from Pharmacy school. After some initial disappointment with the fact that I would have to do more reading than watching I went on to thoroughly enjoy the course, gain a consultant certificate and develop the confidence to practice herbal medicine.
I’m pleased to say that after 2 years we finally managed to go live during the midst of the Corona Pandemic! Our services are all delivered remotely to maximise access, and the main ones include weight loss and general well-being consultations. We specialise in supporting the health and well-being needs of people living with HIV, but our doors are wide open to all those that seek to gain healing to improve their health and well-being through our services and products.
You can visit this link to find out more about Wesie Pharmacy