Sofia Alberto Lista, a mother of three, expects the sustained growth of the compounding pharmaceutical industry in the Philippines, as more Filipino patients now require customized medication to meet their specific needs.
Lista, the co-founder and managing director of Apotheca Integrative Pharmacy, sees this as an opportunity to strive for growth and contribute modern solutions to the healthcare industry.
AIP also hopes to encourage more Filipinos to embrace compounding medicine as a modern solution that can be tailored to their needs. AIP is considered the first stand-alone pharmacy in the country that works with doctors, patients and hospitals nationwide, specializing on compounded and customized medication.
“This separates us from your typical retail community pharmacy that also practices compounding in a few dosage forms such as the dilution of powdered suspensions and paper tablet preparations, and hospital-based compounding pharmacies that only typically serve their registered patients,” says Lista.
AIP offers nine therapeutic categories using United States Pharmacopeia-grade active ingredients and provides flexibility to doctors and their patients when it comes to formula database and customization requirements.
“As specialty compounders, we do not offer ready-made branded or generic medication in our pharmacy, except for healthy and natural snacks and goods in our retail space. Earlier this year, we are proudly the first to launch compounding services on an e-commerce platform through our all-new website, giving us more meaningful online engagement with our clients,” says Lista, who co-founded AIP with her husband Richard in 2014.
“What truly differentiates us from pharmaceutical or other healthcare companies on the other hand, is our focus on customized medication produced per prescription and per patient, whereas most companies focus on mass produced and manufactured drugs or other types of products,” says Lista.
Pharmaceutical compounding has always been an integral part of pharmaceutical history, she says. It is the art and science of combining and preparing personalized medicines for patients. Based per prescription, active ingredients are mixed as per the identified dosage form and strength.
Lista says AIP, as a pioneer in the Philippines, provides better access to pharmaceutical compounding and the flexibility of customization to medical and patient communities to meet unique needs. “It becomes critical in the healthcare sector as we help fill in the gap to meet those needs, when commercially available drugs do not,” she says.
“Since 2014, we have served over 1,300 medical doctors, 13,000 patients and received patient referrals from over 80 hospitals across the country,” says Lista.
AIP works with different medical practitioners—from aesthetic and general dermatologists, internists, functional, integrative practitioners, OB gynecologists, urologists to pediatricians and family medicine practitioners. The top three practitioner markets served by AIP are those in Aesthetics, Internal Medicine and Family Medicine.
Aside from AIP, three are three other compounding pharmacies in the country. “Together, we are building a small sub-industry in the retail pharmacy industry. This motivates us to continue our focus to improving and expanding our services and our operations to continue to provide quality service to our clients,” says Lista.
AIP was conceived in 2012, when her husband Richard struggled to source prescribed quality compounded medication for his parents, and there was simply no entity able to provide locally.
“Sourcing them meant spending more in finding them abroad and taking them back to the country. After two years of planning, consultation and business process applications, AIP in 2014, opened its doors in Makati City, achieving the milestone of becoming the first licensed compounding pharmacy in the country by the Food and Drug Administration,” says Sofia.
AIP, which now has 35 employees, looks forward to continued work on improving product offerings, channel and logistics network, collaborative educational programs for doctors and seeing through the seamlessness of a new website.
AIP works hand in hand with doctors, patients and registered licensed pharmacists who were internationally trained on compounding medicine. They collaborate with international partners such as the Professional Compounding Centers of America and Medisca Australia.
Each of the compounded medicines is also made with United States Pharmacopeia -grade active ingredients to assure clients of high-quality products.
AIP has teamed up with more than 300 health service providers nationwide and is a proud affiliate of several health organizations in the Philippines, including Atrium Solutions Inc., Spectrum Innovations Inc., Klean Athlete Philippines and Reviv Philippines to deliver medical solutions to patients and doctors from different areas across the Philippines.
Lista is optimistic about the industry prospects. “In three years’ time, I see our pharmacy expansion coming into fruition as the demand for compounded medication continues to grow locally. It will be an important time for us,” she says.
To further strengthen AIP’s presence in the market and continue providing customized medication, the company launched the first online compounding pharmacy in the country this year.
AIP proved the importance of customized medication amid the pandemic. “We were operational the whole time, adjusting to the challenges we faced in world-wide supply chain issues, local lockdowns and Covid-19 related exposures,” she says.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, AIP was able to introduce a new category of compounded nutraceuticals (vitamins and minerals) and was one of the first to come up with the combination of Vitamin C, D3 and Zinc in varying dosages into one capsule.
The pandemic also opened the doors for the company to strengthen its position as “telepharmacy”, delivering products and services in various forms of telecommunication technologies at a distance.
“It wasn’t easy, but what kept us steady was our being able to focus on the things we could control, striving for constant communication and alignment to our staff and clients, and choices to invest heavily in the name of safety and continued service,” says Lista.
Work-life balance is important in managing family and business, she says.
“I’m a mother of three kids [1 in high school and 2 in grade school],” says Lista, who completed her MBA at the AIM in 2021.
“Working with your life partner in a demanding and serious business environment can be challenging of course. To really manage it, what has been a good approach for me is having a clear understanding with Richard, what are our priorities when it comes to our kids and our home, surrounding ourselves with people we can trust and who can support us in the office and at the home, and ensuring our time management is in check,” she says.
“Time flies so fast, so activities with the kids, like movies, walking in UP or yoga together is major. Work-life balance and decompressing is key. At the end of the day, I am humbled and feel privileged to be working a fulfilling health services environment that allows me to grow both personally and professionally, as a team player and leader,” she says.
Lista, who studied at Miriam College, Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Asian Institute of Management, spearheads an educational campaign on compounded medicine to enlighten more professionals, players in the healthcare industry and the public on compounded solutions for treatment.