Dr. Monica Gavin and Pharmacist Mario Sellecchia
by Julianne Hale and Michelle BenseAfter a firsthand experience with the symptoms of menopause, Monica Gavin, M.D., developed an interest in anti-aging medicine. "I had every symptom possible—lack of sleep, mood swings, increased abdominal fat and decreased energy," she explains. "I went to my gynecologist and she did not offer any solutions except progesterone."
That single treatment option frustrated Gavin and compelled her to conduct her own research and study anti-aging medicine. That quest eventually led to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. "For me, it was truly a miracle," says Gavin. "It took care of every symptom I had. I have no hot flashes, I’ve got lots of energy and no mood swings."
Gavin has been practicing anti-aging medicine for five years now. In addition to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, her practice, Azani Medical Spa, in Bethlehem, offers wrinkle correction, skin tightening, acne therapy, laser hair removal, Botox and aesthetics. All plastic surgery procedures at Azani are performed by Dr. Benjamin Lam, who is board certified in plastic surgery.
Unlike synthetics, the hormones that Gavin prescribes are identical to the human molecule and provide a much safer, higher quality alternative to the one-size-fits-all synthetic hormones typically prescribed by physicians. "About 95 percent of the patients that I have taken care of for the past five years have fantastic results from bioidentical hormone replacement therapy," reports Gavin.
Most of Gavin’s patients come to her after their attempts to discuss bioidentical hormones with a family physician or gynecologist are met with a lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to prescribe. When a patient comes to see Gavin about menopause or andropause (menopause in males), she performs a comprehensive exam, reviewing the patient’s medical history, getting bloodwork and saliva to test hormone levels. She uses this information to create a customized prescription tailored to each patient’s individual needs.
"There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hormones," explains Gavin. "Synthetic hormones only come in one strength. I write a prescription for each patient that must be taken to a compounding pharmacist, who puts it all together and dispenses it." The prescriptions come in sublingual form (under the tongue), drops, cream, oral capsules and injections.
A. Mario Sellecchia, RPh, an owner at Philadelphia Professional Compounding Pharmacy (PPC), in Hatboro, is one such compounding pharmacist. "Prescription compounding is the pharmaceutical merging of art and science for the preparation of personalized medications," says Sellecchia. "Using the most current techniques and highest quality ingredients, we assist doctors in providing fundamental care for each individual. Whether a patient needs a specialized dosing, an uncommon dosage form, or an allergen-free medication, we can help."
In addition to compounding custom bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for his clients, Sellecchia helps patients who cannot take pills in the form made by the manufacturer, young children who need very small doses of a specific medication, patients who require custom doses and veterinarians. "A compounding pharmacist can alter the dosage form, flavor or administration route based on an individual’s needs," he says. "For example, if a patient cannot swallow pills due to illness or any other reason, we can often make a flavored suspension. For veterinary needs, we can make medication in a topical cream, a treat or a pet-friendly-flavored suspension."
Some may worry that compounding pharmacies are unregulated or that compounded medications are not as safe as their counterparts. However, Sellecchia says this concern is unfounded. "Each ingredient used in our compounds is thoroughly tested by the manufacturer, with certifications of analysis available for each lot of chemicals," he explains. "Commercially available medications are one-size-fits-all. But what about the patient who has a severe allergy to lactose or corn—two ingredients that are common fillers in commercially available medications? Compounding can remedy this by creating a medication that is free of the allergen and therefore safe."
Women and men who suffer with symptoms of menopause and andropause can find relief in the form of the comprehensive diagnosis and treatment provided by Gavin and the compounding pharmaceutical medications created by Sellecchia. Working together, this pair of innovative medical professionals is improving the quality of life for many through safe and effective treatments.
Azani Medical Spa is located at 3101 Emrick Blvd., Ste. 201, Bethlehem. For more information, call 610-625-3000 or visit AzaniMedicalSpa.com. Philadelphia Professional Compounding Pharmacy is located at 23 S. York Rd., Hatboro. For more information, call 1-877-637-7727, email [email protected] or visit PPCPharmacy.com.
Michelle Bense is a freelance writer and editor for Natural Awakenings magazines. Connect with her at [email protected].