Monday, September 15, 2014

Guest Post: The Pharmacist Who Refuses to Sell Soft Drinks

Last week the media was abuzz with reports of a pharmacist from Nova Scotia who had elected, despite the financial disincentive, to stop selling soda and other sugar sweetened beverages in his pharmacy. His name is Graham MacKenzie and his pharmacy, Stone's Pharmasave in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, is a testament to doing the right thing. Huge kudos to Mr. MacKenzie. Wish there were more like him. Here's what he did and why in his own words:

Roughly six months ago I started serious consideration after repeated studies that came out documenting the bad effects of sugared drinks. The consideration was whether or not to continue selling the sugared beverages in my pharmacy, Stone’s Pharmasave in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. The reasons to drop this category were simple. The consumption of just one of these beverages daily was proven to cause adverse metabolic traits including metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of symptoms including high cholesterol, diabetes, abdominal obesity and high blood pressure. In our nutraceutical consultations we often stress the importance of nutrition in overall wellbeing and improvement of health related issues. Having a customer leave the store by walking past the pop and juice coolers on their way out after that talk made zero sense.

Customers would ask me if there was a safe level of consumption. The best way I could explain it is if you hold out your hands and I pour marbles into them - it is relatively easy to catch all of them without dropping any at first. The marbles represent insults to your body: either sugar, pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer, heavy metal, radiation, processed food, poor nutrient consumption, air pollution and so on. At first you are young and you have no issues, later on as you get older, more and more marbles fill your hands and eventually you drop one, or two. This is the tipping point where your body now expresses disease or injury. Sugar is a big part of this contribution.

So, I sent out a press release on September 11, 2014, which can be found here: Nova Scotia pharmacy stops selling soft drinks and other sugary beverages

We pulled the pin before we opened that morning by removing all juices, soda, sport drinks and vitamin water from the store. I figured all would be quiet for the most part, a few blank stares a couple of frowns and that would be it. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response on all of our social media channels. People are now alerted to the effects of sugar and how much sugar themselves and their families have been consuming. They have become more aware that it is better to eat the food rather than drink the juice. For example, eating an apple gives you fiber, which slows the glucose absorption, plus you don’t get as much juice. They now know that by consuming one or two of these beverages daily, they have the same chance of increased diabetes risk as a smoker does. By raising awareness, people now ask what high fructose corn syrup is and why it is particularly important to avoid this dangerous visceral fat absorbing sugar.

My overall goal was to raise awareness of the adverse health effects of drinking soft drinks and sugary beverages. At some point, disease prevention needs to become part of our world-class medicine we have available to us. Treating patients symptom by symptom is too much of a downstream activity to really act in our favour. I want to promote healthy living for my customers and I think this was a step in the right direction. Perhaps it was nothing more than a symbolic moral gesture to spark an educational thought not only among my customers, but those globally. In a television interview in the pharmacy the following day, with camera rolling and the interviewer present, one of our biggest pop buyers walked in for his regular case of soda. When he found out there was none sold there anymore he turned to the empty cooler, then looked at the water filled cooler next to it and picked up two bottles of water. “These are better for me anyway I guess!”, as he purchased them and went on his way out the door.

Overall, it has been a great week. For my customers and me.

Graham MacKenzie graduated from St.F.X.U. In Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1989 (BSc chem) and Dalhousie U College of Pharmacy in Halifax, NS in 1993. He went to Stone's Drug Store in Baddeck, NS at that time. In 2001 he purchased the store and renovated it inside and out to include a compounding lab and new dispensary. He has developed a one on one Nutraceutical Consultations, developed a 40 minute Healthy Grocery Shopping Tour and continues to actively educate on alternative and conventional therapies to his patients and globally. He actively blogs on his website,, and you can follow him on Twitter.