Pharmacists Doug Boudreaux and his wife, Jennifer, of Boudreaux s Compounding Pharmacy had to overcome a seemingly impossible 30-day deadline to apply for the licensure to be a provider of the now-legal oil form of medicinal marijuana for this region. They will be able to provide this drug for hospice and oncology patients through their new business, Hope Pharmacy, LLC, at 1410 Kings Hwy. House Bill 579 is waiting for the governor to sign, adding glaucoma, PTSD and Parkinson s as well as other debilitating health issues to the list of what can be treated.
When the Louisiana Legislature legalized tetrahydrocannabinols, a medical form of marijuana in 2015, local pharmacist Douglas Boudreaux felt a surge of hope for those in pain.
So much so, his parent company is named Hope Pharmacy, LLC, and under it Boudreaux has obtained approval and licensure to carry the drug from the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Hope Pharmacy will be the name on the sign over the door of his newest location in Shreveport.
“We stayed with it from the beginning,” Boudreaux said of the statute.
“When there were public hearings with the board, we attended, and in 2017 we really became involved. We knew what to expect and were ready when the board developed the application process.”
The deadline to apply for licensure was 30 days after publication, which he considers pretty short notice.
“That included finding the property, buying the property, making sure MPC (Metropolitan Planning Commission) was OK with the property – there can be no schools, no nurseries, no churches around the property – and getting an architect to design the building,” he pointed out.
Although pharmacies must be safe because of opiates, marijuana is a schedule I drug, which will require even more features designed into the building. That means acquiring an architect that understands the level of safety.
Boudreaux has purchased land and a building at 1410 Kings Highway, near Feist-Weiller Cancer Center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University Health, Shiners Hospitals for Children and Willis-Knighton Cancer Center.
“Hope Pharmacy will be located directly across the street from the largest cancer treatment center and the largest hospital in nine parishes,” he said. “We are also located approximately one mile from Willis-Knighton Medical Center and Cancer Treatment Center.”
Once a fish and chicken restaurant, the building was scheduled to be demolished Friday, May 11.
“It will take seven and a half months to rebuild,” Boudreaux said.
LSU and Southern University have the licenses to grow the marijuana and will distribute it to Hope Pharmacy in an oil form.
“They deliver it to me under armed guards,” Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux and his wife, Jennifer, also a pharmacist, will run Hope Pharmacy, while leaving other staff in place at their other two locations, Boudreaux’s Specialty Pharmacy in Shreveport, which he has owned since 1999, and Boudreaux’s New Drug Store in Lake Charles.
The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy is under the Department of Health and Hospitals. They will regulate Hope Pharmacy.
Jennifer Boudreaux has been a pharmacist for 23 years and is the pharmacist in charge on the application. She is responsible for writing and implementing the company’s policy and procedures, as well as educating the staff.
Boudreaux said any doctor can prescribe medical marijuana, as long as they are registered with the state Board of Medical Examiners.
“There is a process for any physician to apply,” he said, giving hospice physicians as an example of a doctor that might apply to prescribe medical marijuana, as well as oncologists.
The law that was passed in 2015, and has been amended every year since, allows medical marijuana to be prescribed for therapeutic use by patients clinically diagnosed as suffering from a debilitating medical condition, which is defined as cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.
Boudreaux is especially excited about House Bill 579, recently passed by the House and Senate and awaiting the governor’s signature.
If passed, it adds glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, posttraumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease to the list that can be treated.
“That’s huge,” Boudreaux said. “It’s a big deal. Before, patients with PTSD, I wouldn’t have been able to dispense it to them. That’s a wonderful thing.”
When he heard the bill passed, Boudreaux said it almost brought him to tears.
“The whole thing is about helping people,” he said. “For the people who have cancer and have intractable vomiting – they need this so much.”
Boudreaux admitted he is in such a rush to help these people he is actually “being mean to the construction guys and architect.”
“The demolition person said it would be a month (before he could get to the job), and I said I need you there this week, and he got there … this week,” Boudreaux said. “I’m really being a jerk about getting this thing open, but I just can’t wait to start.”
Boudreaux has more than 20 years' experience in hospice care and with it has come about a 98 percent success rate in pain management.
“That means that only two percent of our patients really need something for pain that we can’t control for various reasons,” he said. “So, we have a good success for pain management for cancer, but even two percent is too many, and those are the ones I think about at night.”