Only American Unguator suppliers look to expand their operation

Published: Friday, October 2, 2009 7:00 am

Journal Record

NORMAN - A piece of German technology sold by a Norman pharmaceutical company has sparked the need for expansion into the city's business park.

Health Engineering Systems, founded by pharmacists Rob and Lisa Standridge, sells the Unguator, a modern-day equivalent of the mortar and pestle used by pharmacists over the centuries. Unguator, in German, means "to mix ointments," Rob Standridge said, and it simplifies the compounding process for busy pharmacists.

"It's like a malt machine - it mixes around and around and up and down, and you have to buy the patented jars to go with it," he said. "Pharmacists are very busy, and they have to take time away from other work to mix something. Our machine automates the process."

The Unguator is specifically designed for compounding lotions, creams and ointments, Standridge said. The machine comes in three sizes, but 80 percent of his clients use the middle-range Unguator, which costs about $2,500, he said. The large machine, which can hold up to 1,000 milliliters, runs $3,500, he said.

Standridge has sold about 5,000 of the Unguators to independent pharmacies, and he's broken into the chain world by selling to 800 Walgreen pharmacies, he said.

The primary use for the Unguator is hormone replacement creams and lotions, Standridge said. Pharmacists also compound creams or gels for hospice use, when patients often can't swallow a pill. The veterinary world also performs a lot of compounding to create dosages for animals of all sizes, he said.

The Unguator simplifies the compounding process for pharmacists because the machine carries out the bulk of the work, Standridge said. It has two motors - one on bottom moving the jar up and down and one on top spinning a mixing blade around.

"The blade touches the outer wall, so you don't lose anything," he said. "It touches the whole mix."

But the biggest benefit is the time it saves, Standridge said.

"The big problem has been that pharmacists would get started mixing something, then they would get called away," he said. "With our machine, the mixing takes a similar amount of time - about 10 to 20 minutes - but once you combine the ingredients and push a few buttons, you can go off and do other tasks. Smaller pharmacies especially would procrastinate doing big compounds because they would constantly get called away. Pharmacists are just too busy these days to process things manually."

The Unguator mixes prescriptions in the jar that is given to the patient; it only requires a label once it's done, Standridge said.

Jerrod Roberts, owner of Flourish Integrative Pharmacies in Oklahoma City, said he uses two Unguators in his compounding lab. He said the machines save him time and provide consistency.

"We send things off for quality control testing, and they always come back great," Roberts said. "We feel confident that it's being mixed consistently."

The design of the Unguator also leads to less contamination of the prescription at a patient's home, Standridge said. He conducted tests showing that when patients repeatedly dip their hands into a bottle to get the cream or ointment, the chance is higher for fungal growth. However, because the bottom of the Unguator bottle pushes up to the top - like a push-up Popsicle - there's no need for patients to dip in their hands.

Rob and Lisa Standridge started Health Engineering Systems in 2007 when they acquired the licensing for the Unguator technology, which he estimates is in 17,000 of Germany's 20,000 pharmacies. The couple are the only suppliers of Unguator products in North and South America, and he said they hope to one day manufacture them here.
They are building a 17,000-square-foot, $2.5 million facility to house their growing company in the Norman Business Park.

The expansion will house their other pharmaceutical ventures - a software and Web development company, RS Software, and LegendCare Pharmacy, which specializes in prescriptions for assisted-living centers, nursing homes and other institutional care.

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