YOUNGSTOWN Nicotine lollipops take unfair licking
By using the laced lollipops, smokers avoid the products that cause cancer and respiratory problems.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR HEALTH WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown pharmacist Dan P. Wearsch says nicotine-laced lollipops are legal as long as they are prescribed by a doctor and the type of nicotine approved by the Federal and Drug Administration is used.
Certain types of the lollipops, used as smoke-cessation aids, came under fire from the FDA last month in Georgia, Mississippi and Massachusetts. The FDA warned pharmacists there, some of whom were reportedly selling the suckers over the counter and Internet without a prescription, to cease and desist.
The reason given is that the type of nicotine used in the offending lollipops -- salicylate -- had not been safety tested by the FDA and therefore was not approved.
The FDA's action and subsequent publicity cut into what had been a growing part of Youngstown pharmacist Dan P. Wearsch's medicine compounding business, Pharmacy Care Associates Compound RX.
Wearsch wants physicians and their patients to know that the type of nicotine he uses in his lollipops -- polacrilex -- is FDA-approved, and is the same type used in patches and other forms of smoke-cessation aids.
According to published reports, anti-smoking groups had lobbied the FDA to stop the sale of nicotine lollipops, fearing that they could possibly hook children on nicotine and lead them to smoke tobacco later.
Wearsch, owner of the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, 2603 Mahoning Ave., and Compound RX, located in the pharmacy, agrees the nicotine lollipops should be sold by prescription only.
But, given that condition, he said he would think that anti-smoking groups would be in favor of anything that reduces tobacco smoking.
"If I can take someone from a pack a day to one-half a pack a day with a lollipop, that's got to be positive," he said.
Amount of nicotine
Wearsch, who used to smoke himself, said each of the $2 lollipops he compounds contains 2 milligrams of nicotine, an amount equivalent to one-half a pack of cigarettes.
A heavy smoker might go through four suckers a day. But, Wearsch said, with the suckers, smokers can satisfy the hand-to-mouth motion, and they don't get the other harmful products in cigarettes that cause cancer and respiratory problems, he said.
Wearsch has been compounding a multitude of medicines since he bought the pharmacy in November 1993. Before then, the Chaney Pharmacy and the Syms Pharmacy were located there.
He said by compounding, he can make medicines for people and animals who can't swallow or otherwise tolerate medicines in their commercial dose or form.
For instance, he makes transdermal gels containing medicine that can be applied outside the body, for arthritis or muscular dystrophy.
He said one of his most satisfying cases involved compounding a transdermal gel containing secretin, a gastric enzyme, for a 7-year-old autistic boy a couple of years ago.
Wearsch said the boy's mother told him that after applying the gel for two days, her son, who had never spoken, came running down the stairs and said, "Mommy, I love you."
That was very gratifying," Wearsch said.
In the 1930s and 1940s, about 60 percent of all medications were compounded or custom-prepared. During the 1950s and 60s, with the advent of manufacturing, compounding declined, and the pharmacist's role as a preparer of medications changed to that of a dispenser of manufactured dosage forms.
But, in the 1980s and 1990s, compounding is again on the rise and accounts for about 1 percent of the prescriptions dispensed in the United States, said Dagmar Climo, communications director for the Professional Compounding Center of America.
Climo said PCCA advocates that nicotine-laced lollipops be made only with a prescription.
Also, she said, pharmacists need to take child protective packaging into account and to counsel patients regarding the correct use of the lollipop. It is not candy, it is medicine, she emphasized.
Climo noted that the compounding industry is regulated by individual state boards of pharmacy.
Wearsch, 42, grew up in Fremont and is a 1984 graduate of the pharmacy school at the University of Toledo. He is a member of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, and has received special training in compounding.
He met his wife, the former Jennifer Flood of Howland, in pharmacy school, and moved back to the area. She formerly worked in the Medicine Shoppe but now is a pharmacist at Main Discount Drug in Kinsman.
They live in Vienna with their children, twin 15-year-old daughters, Meredith and Loren, and son, Pete, 9. Wearsch is involved in the Vienna community as president of the Mathews Little Mustangs and a member of Vienna Kiwanis and Vienna Presbyterian Church.