Marla Ahlgrimm Discusses the Challenges of Founding Madison Pharmacy Associates

Marla Ahlgrimm has come a long way from the early days—battling to educate the country about premenstrual syndrome while co-founding Madison Pharmacy Associates. Starting in a 700 square foot pharmacy space, Madison Pharmacy Associates immediately attracted national attention, with Ahlgrimm and her colleague  fielding calls seven days a week.


Though she does not hold a degree in medicine, Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is globally respected as a knowledge leader in women’s healthcare topics. Nearly 32 years ago, this once unknown pharmacist felt compassion for a customer of the pharmacy where she worked. The rest is history. Feeling disgusted at her employer’s lack of respect for women with PMS, this innovative and brave woman severed ties with the company. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm founded Madison Pharmacy Associates as the first pharmacy of its kind dedicated to women’s health. According to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm, the goal was to create a place where women were not treated as neurotic. Madison Pharmacy Associates fit the bill perfectly.

 

After that first year, Ahlgrimm was able to hire a third pharmacist, as well as a bookkeeper. The business was steadily growing as word spread about the work Madison Pharmacy Associates was doing, but it wasn’t easy. As Marla Ahlgrimm recalls today, Madison Pharmacy Associates found themselves starting from scratch at every level while facing skepticism and even outright opposition from colleagues, lending institutions, and friends and family.


Licensed pharmacist Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm does not hold a PhD. She is the founder of Madison Pharmacy Associates, the first pharmacy in the United States to focus specifically on women’s healthcare issues. To date, Madison pharmacy Associates has successfully helped over 300,000 women gain control of their premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Though popular now, the pharmacy almost never came to be. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm faced strong criticism from both colleagues and financial backers who were certain that Madison Pharmacy Associates would be a failure. Fortunately, for the millions of women who suffer from PMS, Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm’s vision was successful and Madison Pharmacy Associates is now synonymous with PMS relief.

 

Because Madison Pharmacy Associates’ work was groundbreaking, Marla Ahlgrimm had to learn how to do everything, from financing to phone systems to interpreting state and federal regulations. Permission had to granted from the State Pharmacy Board to even open a pharmacy specializing in women’s health.  In addition to state authorities, Ahlgrimm and her colleague also had to deal with the FDA. They were able to observe the process for getting a new drug approved, as well as learn about federal and university research protocols. Marketing this new type of pharmacy was also a challenge.


Although she is often called Dr., Marla Ahlgrimm is not an M.D. She is, however, an important figure in 21st century medicine. This avant-garde women’s healthcare advocate saw a need to educate the United States about premenstrual syndrome in the late 1970s and early 1980s; and thus co-founded Madison Pharmacy Associates. At the time, a large majority of Americans were unfamiliar with premenstrual syndrome. According to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm it was not so unknown in Europe, where research teams were already addressing the issue. Physicians and pharmacists in the United States had very little information to work with, so Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm and Madison Pharmacy Associates had to create all of the educational material that they distributed to their clients.

 

“Madison Pharmacy Associates pioneered the techniques for getting the word out about our services,” Marla Ahlgrimm recalls. This often involved providing background information to radio and television researchers. In the meantime, Ahlgrimm co-authored two successful books titled The HRT Solution­–Optimizing Your Hormone Potential and Self-Help for Premenstrual Syndrome, which helped to spread the word. Soon, Ahlgrimm found physicians and patients were contacting her for advice.  Over time, Ahlgrimm found her work not only respected but imitated. Madison Pharmacy Associates’ techniques to improve powder flow and medication absorption, for instance, were incorporated at major pharmaceutical companies.  Madison Pharmacy Associates’ emphasis on prescription compounding was used as an example to University of Wisconsin pharmacy students that compounding is still an important part of the industry. The pharmacy continues to serve as a clinical rotation site for pharmacy students.


Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is not a research doctor; she is a pharmacist and entrepreneur. As the founder of Wisconsin-based Madison Pharmacy Associates she set in motion events that would legitimize hormonal imbalance as a real issue affecting women. She says that the beginning was the hardest, as there were challenges on all sides–from a lack of literature to financing issues. There were times when she even questioned herself. Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm overcame her misgivings and Madison Pharmacy Associates was born. From its cramped beginnings in a space half the size of the average house, Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm’s Madison Pharmacy Associates became known as women’s health experts nationwide.

 

Often Marla Ahlgrimm is asked to provide advice for pharmacists interested in having the same industry-wide impact as she has. “Remember that intangible values such as pride, vision, trust, and optimism reveal themselves in every transaction you and your employees are involved in,” Marla Ahlgrimm advises. “In fact, these things are the most important measures of success”.


Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm is not a medical doctor; she is a pharmacist and author. She founded Madison Pharmacy Associates in the late 1970s after a series of events where a woman presenting severe PMS symptoms was ignored by management of the pharmacy in which she worked. She and an associate began treating the patient with custom medicinal compounds. Today, thanks to this patient and the work of Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm, over 7000 doctors have received training to treat and diagnose premenstrual syndrome. With Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm’s guidance, the staff at Madison Pharmacy Associates has continued to find new and revolutionary ways to help women manage PMS.

 

The information in this article has been previously published and is provided as a reference resource by Marla Ahlgrimm, R.Ph. Madison Pharmacy Associates was sold in 2011. Marla Ahlgrimm is also the co-founder and President of Cyclin Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The company sells proprietary products for the women’s health market as well as ProCycle PMS and ProCycle Gold products. For more information, go online to www.cyclinpharma.com

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