Letter to Editor: Thoughtful colleagues

To the Editor:

I have been away for much of the summer, and it was with great sadness that I arrived back last week to find that West End Drug is closing. I wish Mike and Stacy Gilfillan and their staff nothing but the best. They have all worked so hard for so long. But I do not think the community realizes just what a loss this is.

Mike and his father before him have always been available to answer questions, not just from their clients, but from doctors and other care providers as well.

No matter how busy they were, they always took the time to listen thoughtfully to questions that ranged from interactions between medicines to looking for cheaper alternatives to expensive therapies.

And West End is one of the last drug stores in the state that has a pharmacist that can actually compound medicines.

Large drug stores just sell what is available to them in prepackaged form from pharmaceutical companies. But Mike can actually make medicines stronger or weaker as needed, from the basic components. This has allowed patients to receive exactly the right titration of a medicine that will work for them. That sort of expertise is so very valuable, and sadly is vanishing from modern day pharmacies.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize Mike for his services that particularly helped the women of this community. Long before it was available over the counter and long before it was regularly talked about as an option for women, Mike offered counseling on and prescriptions for the “morning after pill,” now known by other names such as Plan B.

For those who may not know, morning after pills are basically hormonally-based pills that are taken at a certain dose within 48 hours of unprotected intercourse to help prevent pregnancy.

I worked with Mike to allow that to happen for the women who needed it, and I know that there are many women who are grateful that he started that program long before it became more of a norm.

He also compounded hormone replacement therapy creams for perimenopausal and menopausal women, using plant based derivatives instead of synthetic hormones. This allowed women to gain relief from their symptoms without some of the associated side effects. Not only did I learn a lot about this subject from him, but he gave public talks about this type of treatment, what it could and couldn’t do, possible risks and benefits, etc.

Those talks were always well attended. And he would spend a lot of time with the women he treated with plant based derivatives, talking about their symptoms and then contacting me (or other providers) about dosing changes and the rationale behind them.

I know my patients got highly personalized attention; treatment regimens were rarely exactly alike, because they were so individualized.

It may be true that West End was a little more expensive than other local pharmacies. I do not have first hand information, since I never went anywhere else, but you cannot put a price on the experience, professionalism, expertise, and good humor that were always there. I doubt we will see such a place again.

Thank you to all the Gilfillans, past and present, as well as their staffs. I wish you nothing but the best.

Mary Dudzik, MD

Bar Harbor

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