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Lee Highway Pharmacy Homebrewing Hand Sanitizer and Buying Kabobs for the Hospital

An Arlington pharmacy and a neighboring kabob restaurant have partnered to help feed hospital workers.

Preston’s Pharmacy (5101 Lee Highway) sits directly across the street from Arlington Kabob (5046 Lee Highway). While business during the pandemic has been active at Preston’s, an essential business, pharmacy owner Frank Odeh said he could tell it’s been hard on Arlington Kabob.

“They’re a small business struggling during COVID-19,” Odeh said. “We decided to work with them. They would supply the food, we’re trying to give them some business and exposure. The owner, Susan, is an entrepreneur and a hard worker. We’re working with them and working with [Virginia Hospital Center] every week, picking a different department. Last week it was the ICU, next week it’s the emergency department.”

Odeh said that while the pharmacy is paying for the food to help keep Arlington Kabob in business, the kabob restaurant has been giving them a significant discount.

Preston’s Pharmacy has remained open, but Odeh admitted that business is still slower than it normally is.

“Business is down, although we’re fortunate not having to lay off or furlough any employees,” Odeh said. “It’s down, but because we’re a pharmacy, people still need chronic medication. People like those who are HIV positive, or diabetics, still need their medicine.”

Odeh said the decline has been in acute business, like treatment for smaller issues that Odeh said are likely overlooked during the pandemic, with many doctor’s offices closed down, social distancing cutting down on colds and flu, and hospitals focused on COVID-19.

Hand sanitizer, on the other hand, has been flying off the shelves so quickly that Preston’s Pharmacy has started making their own.

“We have a lab in the pharmacy and we’re able to produce hand sanitizer,” Odeh said. “We’re selling that and donating a portion of that [to local senior centers].”

Odeh said the mixture is 70% alcohol, which they buy in bulk from different vendors and can be hard to come by, mixed with methocel to give it a thickness.

“It’s relatively new for us,” Odeh said. “In the past, we haven’t needed to because it’s been available from manufacturers like Purell, but because of COVID-19 it has become in very short supply. We’ve ordered bottles and labels. It looks like a professionally made product.”

Odeh said the state board, CDC and FDA have all given them the green light to compound in bulk, a process that’s been fast-tracked due to COVID-19.

The other big seller, Odeh said, has been vitamins.

“[We] sold out on things like Vitamin C and elderberry,” Odeh said. “Vitamin sales have gone through the room. Vitamin D, C and elderberry have immune-boosting properties. People are following trends. There was a study recently about using Pepcid and ulcer medication [to fight coronavirus] and we sold out of that.”

To keep customers and employees safe, Odeh said everyone in the store wears masks and there are plexiglass shields at the registers. Customers are routed through the pharmacy along arrows on the floor and asked to stay six feet apart.

Photos courtesy Preston’s Pharmacy

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