A daughter’s passion has inspired a renaissance around West End in practices that date back to the origins of pharmacy.

MORE THAN 30 years ago, part of pharmacist Andrew Tanos’s day involved mixing medicines and tinctures from scratch, but the rise of mass drug manufacturing saw a decline in custom-made remedies. His role as pharmacist shifted away from preparation of medicines to one of dispenser of manufactured drugs with their standard dosages. But times are changing again, and his daughter, Panayiota, who is also qualified as a pharmacist, realised this one-size-fits-all approach was not meeting everyone’s needs. She convinced her dad to introduce modern-day compounding of medicines at his Boundary Street pharmacy. “We treat people how we would like to be treated,” Panayiota says. “We are one of the last remaining independent family-owned chemists — we feel like a pharmacy not a supermarket,” she says.

The Tanos Pharmacy is a chemist with a difference. To the rear is the customary dispensary but to the right is a purpose-built glassed laboratory erected for the preparation of medicines. In addition, the pharmacy has one of the few onsite sterile labs in Brisbane, required for the preparation of eye drops, injections and infusions. Also on display are items of old pharmaceutical equipment such as brass scales, conical flasks, tin sieves and a Bunsen burner. “These and many other old items were found under the stairs when the old wooden building was renovated. My mum saved them. She has heaps more at home,” Panayiota says.

The artefacts of a bygone era have been replaced by modern technology and equipment but Andrew says the art and principles of preparing customised medications have largely remained the same. Panayiota agrees and confesses to reading her father’s old text books which she found in a box in the garage. “I didn’t know you did that,” he smiles at the admission.

Compounding is not for everyone, Andrew explains, but he is thrilled by the success his customers have experienced. These include a baby with an allergy to the preservatives and additives in Panadol, who has a medication specially made up to help with cold and flu, an elderly woman whose dry mouth made swallowing tablets difficult, who was made a medicated lollipop, and a man whose painful tattoo removal was eased by the development of a numbing gel. A topical cream has been effective in treating bed sores, and a small boy has been convinced to take his medicine by making up a raspberry chocolate blend. Many women are also benefiting from hormone medications with doses adjusted to meet the needs of their own individual symptoms.

A doctor’s script is required for prescription drugs and on many occasions Panayiota has worked with the customer’s doctor to provide a medication that is right for them. She has also worked with a vet who was treating a cat with a thyroid problem. The cat refused to swallow the tablet no matter what the owner tried so Panayiota developed a cream that could be rubbed on the inside of the ear so the medicine could be absorbed through the skin.

Panayiota believes compounding medication is catching on in West End: “People like to know who is handling their wellbeing.”

Words by Maria Ceresa | Images by Darlia Argyris