Neal Smoller is a busy guy. Not only is he proprietor of two pharmacies, Village Apothecary in Saugerties and Woodstock Apothecary in Woodstock, he and his wife Erin are the proud parents of two-year-old triplets Rowan, Ava, and Liv.
As if juggling three two-year-olds and two businesses isn’t enough, recently he’s been active in helping to pass legislation that gives his patients protection against corporate pharmacy benefit managers. The AMMO (Anti-Mandatory Mail Order) legislation signed by Governor Cuomo on Dec. 12 now gives patients the right to choose their neighborhood pharmacy over a nameless, faceless mail order supplier.
Smoller was born in Kingston thirty-one years ago, and has lived in Saugerties his entire life. He got into the pharmaceutical field through a career selection program in high school at Saugerties High. “I got a job at Beadles Pharmacy in Saugerties as a teenager,” he says, “working for the man who was my pharmacist, who is now my business partner, Pete.”
He met wife Erin in pharmacy school, which led to marriage for the couple in 2005. She was a pharmacist, too, until the arrival of the triplets intervened.
Village Apothecary is an old-fashioned community pharmacy offering personalized service, even curbside assistance and free home delivery for those who need it. A true apothecary, they practice the art of compounding, formulating medications and remedies for patients based on patient-specific factors rather than just issuing drugs from the major manufacturers.
“With compounding, we make medications from scratch,” Smoller says. “We base it on what the drug does, not what the drug manufacturer says a drug is for.”
It’s hard, he says, “to determine sometimes what is good medicine and what is not,” because of the biases of everybody involved. “From my perspective,” he says, “a lot of medications are unnecessary, but there is so much influence from the pharmaceutical corporations who create diseases, changing the way that diseases are treated to benefit themselves.” It’s skewed toward whoever has the most money, he says, and we’d do better to take an active part in our healthcare. “We have a ‘bandaid’ mentality in this country: ‘what can I take,’ instead of ‘what can I do.’”
He’d like to see a more realistic assessment of drugs and controlled substances, too. “We need to stop kidding ourselves,” he says. “We’ve legalized alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, the three most abused and utilized drugs, then we take a higher moral ground because we have certain drugs illegal. Meanwhile, people are drinking away their problems and using alcohol as an antidepressant or mood stabilizer. It’s hypocritical.”
The problem with illegal narcotics, he says, is that it’s the difficulty of getting them through illegal channels that causes people to hurt each other. “Let’s just make it legal,” he says, “ and fix people’s problems instead of trying to fight it.”