Long before national retailers like Whole Foods and CVS carried homeopathic medicines, small independent pharmacies sold most of our industry’s products. Many of these independent retailers are still alive and well today. Not only do they help consumers get the drugs they need, they have pride for the industry, showcase our indelible history, and ensure we’re taking steps to effectively move into the future.
AAHP recently interviewed Steve Litvak, the owner of one of the oldest and most well-known independent pharmacies in the country, Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy. A multigenerational company, Litvak’s grandfather, Norman, opened the pharmacy in 1944 in downtown Santa Monica. At first a traditional pharmacy, they soon began offering a small selection of homeopathic remedies. Their limited selection quickly expanded, especially after years of customer requests for a worthy alternative to allopathic medication. Today, they attract customers from across the globe, offering free consultations from expert staff on the homeopathic drugs they offer (They also offer insights about nutrition, Western herbs, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and chiropractic philosophies).
In our conversation with Litvak, we discussed a myriad of topics ranging from the history of his pharmacy, the aftermath of losing his beloved father, and the unfortunate looting of his store during the 2020 summer protests. Additionally, we discussed interesting homeopathy trends Litvak doesn’t see going away anytime soon.
AAHP: Tell us a bit about yourself and Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy.
SL: In 1957, I was born into a family who appreciated the benefits of alternative medicine, and it was always my family’s first choice in treatment. I started out as a restaurant business owner until 1989 when I joined the family business at the pharmacy. At that time, the pharmacy had already been supplying natural medicine for about 40 years. I came in with the technology to bring the business into the 20th century. After I began working at the pharmacy, I decided to return to school to get a better understanding of alternative medicine. I received my diploma from a four-year course at the British institute of Homeopathy where I trained under Dr. Trevor Cook, who at that time was the physician for the Queen of England.
AAHP: What are your customers looking for from homeopathy today?
SL: We have new customers every day turning to homeopathy and other natural ways to resolve their health problems. We continually have medical doctors asking for help with their patients. Hospital doctors even contact us looking for alternative treatments to allopathic drugs because more and more patients are not able to take allopathic medicine or are taking them but not getting impactful results
AAHP: Which types of remedies are selling?
SL: The range of remedies covers almost all health problems from mild to serious. We often combine homeopathic remedies with nutritional or herbal supplements, depending on the difficulty of the problem.
AAHP: Can you forecast any trends for the coming years?
SL: Yes. Immunity issues are going to be on the top of the list. Autoimmune will be the primary issue along with antiviral support. Unfortunately, I think that stress, anxiety, insomnia, and fear are all going to dramatically increase as well.
AAHP: The Pharmacy unfortunately experienced significant looting during protests last year. How have you rebuilt and progressed since then?
SL: Actually, our history of rebuilding began even before last year’s protests. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake destroyed the pharmacy at its original location on 4th and Broadway in Santa Monica. We moved the store to 7th and Broadway, completely remodeling the building. Since then, the interior hadn’t been updated and needed a facelift with 21st century technology.
We wouldn’t have been able to remodel had it not been for the riots that destroyed the entire inside of our building last spring. Everything had to be rebuilt. The riots were not good for me personally, since I got hit over the head and was injured, but they turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the pharmacy.
AAHP: You’ve certainly faced adversity both personally and as a business owner. In addition to the impact of the riots, what other challenges did you face in the past year?
Between COVID-19 forcing us to limit our operations, my father passing away on April 4, then the riots and my assault on May 31—I would have to say things are going much better today! It was at first difficult to integrate the store’s bookkeeping into my already busy schedule after my father passed because that’s something he usually handled. During the rebuild, which took about eight months, the business was operating outside which certainly posed some challenges. We had to fully close for about 30 days, and thankfully during this time our staff received full pay.
AAHP: How can manufacturers support retailers and pharmacy owners like yourself?
SL: The easiest thing they can do is refer customers looking for help, and alert us when there are new technologies and products available. Personally, we’re thinking about starting our own alternative telemedicine. Our client base is worldwide, and we consult by email or in store. We’re always trying to innovate, and we hope the industry can come along with us and continually raise the bar.
AAHP: What does the future of homeopathy in the U.S. look like?
SL: Historically, homeopathy has in one way or another, steadily been under attack. It seems like the competition feels threatened by its effectiveness and demand! Modern medicine has its limitations, just like all medicine, and homeopathy and nutritional supplements fill in the gap. I think that AAHP and other industry organizations should be aggressive in advocating for homeopathy.
AAHP: Thank you, Steve.
SL: Thank you!
Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy has been owned and operated by licensed healthcare practitioners since 1944. They have over 200 years of collective clinical knowledge in modern and alternative medicine and strive to maintain the most up-to-date information from research and studies on alternative and integrative medicine. To learn more about Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy, visit: www.smhomeopathic.com
The American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP) is the trade organization of the American homeopathic industry. Our not-for-profit alliance of homeopathic manufacturers, marketers, and pharmacists/individuals represents the main body of manufacturing and distributing companies in the U.S., with connections to other manufacturers overseas. The AAHP was founded in 1923 and has decades of experience representing the interests of the homeopathic industry. Learn more about our mission, advocacy, and resources by visiting us online at: www.theaahp.org