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Vernak Farms finds its niche with specialty pharmacy, great pizza

Vernak Farms owner and pharmacist Charlene Vernak prepares a psoriasis cream using an ointment mill. The tall machine behind her arm is an electric mixer, which often takes the place of the old-fashioned mortar and pestle.

Vernak Farms owner and pharmacist Charlene Vernak prepares a psoriasis cream using an ointment mill. The tall machine behind her arm is an electric mixer, which often takes the place of the old-fashioned mortar and pestle. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— But the real growth from size, reputation and income perspectives has been the specialty pharmacy, the Vernaks said.

As a specialty, compounding pharmacy, Vernak Farms sells not only typical retail medications offered by regular pharmacies, but also is able to offer specially-made medications. Pharmacist Charlene Vernak works directly with the doctors and the patients to tailor medications to a patient’s specific needs.

If a patient cannot tolerate certain drugs, needs a special combination of different medications, certain forms or strength of medications, Vernak can make, or “compound,” whatever is needed herself in her pharmacy.

“Everything we do is individualized, is custom,” she said. “The benefits of this is that the medication can often have a more immediate effect, or have less side effects because it is specific to what a patient needs.”

Another benefit is that if a medication is no longer produced for retail or is on back-order due to a drug shortage, Vernak Farms can make the prescription on site, and therefore the patient can receive their medication on time.

“I’ve been using compounding pharmacies for years, and [Vernak Farms] has been really helpful to us,” said Dr. James Farrell of Westside Podiatry Center in Skaneateles. “They can combine the medications we want to use. It’s often a lot safer, being less systemic and more localized, and with less side effects. It’s a good alternative for a lot of people.”

Farrell said Vernak Farms is one of only three compounding pharmacies he is aware of in the entire Syracuse area, and Charlene Vernak also has been helpful in recommending to him products that he did not even know existed.

“There’s a whole world of problems we can cover with her [compounding] help. It’s convenient, it’s local — and they make really good pizza, which is a nice little bonus,” Farrell said.

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