In Conversation with Homeopathic Industry Veteran J.P. Borneman
Dr. John “Jay” Borneman was born into the field of homeopathy. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father paved the way before him through their own extensive and impressive careers in the field, including opening and running their business, John A. Borneman and Sons, Inc.
Jay has over 50 years in the business, having worked for several companies including Boiron, Standard Homeopathic Company, and Hyland’s Naturals. He has a diverse educational background, including an MS in Chemistry, an MBA, and a PhD in Health Policy and Public Health. After retiring as Chairman and CEO of Hyland's Naturals in 2021, Jay continues to serve on their Board, the Board of Apparo, LLC, and the Boards of the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and the Avalon Foundation in Easton, Maryland. He is also the longtime Chair of AAHP’s Legal & Regulatory Committee.
AAHP sat down with Jay to discuss his career, how the homeopathic industry has changed over the last 50 years, and where it might go in the future.
AAHP: How did you get your start in this industry?
JB: I’m the fourth generation of my family to work in profession of homeopathic pharmacy. My great-grandfather was a German immigrant who went to work as an errand boy for Boericke and Tafel in Philadelphia in the 1890s. He was working in the lab, and they offered him the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He graduated from there in 1902 as the youngest graduate in pharmacy in their history to date. He went on to a distinguished career in homeopathy as a professor at Hahnneman Medical College in Philadelphia and opening John A. Borneman and Sons, Inc., A generational business.
I’ve been in the business for over 50 years and consider myself mostly retired now. Along the way, I’ve done a lot of different things, and I’ve been to school many times, but the bottom line is that I was a pharmacy generalist.
AAHP: What did you enjoy most about working in this industry?
JB: Being in a business that has grown very rapidly and has scaled is a real challenge. I was effective at the challenges of scaling, so I really enjoyed that.
During my time as a leader, I specifically focused on creating a strong company culture. At Hylands’s our mission was guided by three principles: We did work in a higher purpose, work in the care of others, and we were responsible for being ntte and doing better every day. We spent a lot of time on that—we had a program called GED to PhD where we would send people to school for whatever they wanted, whether it was to complete their high school education or to complete their PhD. We paid for it, no questions asked. It was a gift for working for us, and that was a very successful program.
I was very excited about applied research in hoeopathy. We made soe progress, but ther is quite a bit left to be accomplished.
AAHP: How has this industry changed since you started your career?
JB: Homeopathic pharmacy in the United States significantly benefited from the publication of the FDA Compliance Policy Guide 400.400 “Conditions under which homeopathic medicines may be marketed” in 1988. For the first time, there was a clear regulatory framework from FDA under which we could operate. This had the effect of de-risking the business, and ultimately catalyzed explosive growth. So looking back at my 50 years, homeopathic pharmacy evolved from a cottage industry to an industry at scale with real compliance and governance structures. At the center is the consumer, homeopathic drug products offer effective and desirable healthcare solutions. AAHP members give the consumer what she needs, and she has rewarded us with steady and significant growth.
AAHP: Did COVID-19 have any effect on the industry?
JB: The pandemic affected everybody. In terms of its effect on homeopathy pharmacy, It is a story of unintended consequences. The advent of mask wearing had the effect of eliminating the cough cold season for 20-21. The economic damage to the business was palpable. Then the following season, cough cold dramatically reappeared causing challenges to supply chain. It was dramatic if not instructive.
Trying to keep our facilities open during these lockdowns was maddening. It was difficult, but I think that the nascent understanding of self-care in our companies was an important part of our recovery.
AAHP: What interests people about homeopathy today?
JB: The whole movement toward cleaner products is a tailwind for the growth of the homeopathic industry. If you have kids, you’re probably very concerned about what they eat and put into their bodies—that’s pushing parents toward more natural products like homeopathy.
The first time that people hear about homeopathy, they have to scratch their heads because a lot of it’s very counterintuitive, but once they see it work, all of a sudden that doesn’t make any difference anymore. You may not be an adherent of homeopathy, but at the same time, I think a lot of people understand its benefits.
There’s always going to be some pushback, but I just saw an article from the Washington Post about a National Cancer Institute study that was looking at a homeopathic medicine for cancer and it was a very positive article. That’s a good sign for us.
AAHP: Where is the homeopathic industry going? Where do you see it in 10 years?
JB: I think the long view is that we’re in pretty good shape. Consumers are getting what they need, and the companies are thriving. I think that there are some fundamental regulatory issues that need to be resolved, but these challenges notwithstanding, there is cause for cautious optimism.
AAHP: What types of products are consumers interested in now?
JB: There’s a tremendous amount of interest in cough/cold. It’s a growing segment, and it’s an important segment because a lot of the conventional cough/cold products have unintended consequences for example potentially increasing your blood pressure. Seeing this growth in the market segment is really a validation of principles of homeopathy. You’re not going to buy a product twice if it didn’t work.
AAHP: Talk to us about your role as AAHP’s Legal & Regulatory Committee Chair.
JB: The Legal & Regulatory Committee is primarily involved with surveillance - navigating new rules, updates, laws, and how they could affect the industry. We respond either through communication with the regulatory agencies or potentially with Congress.
There’s an argument that Legal & Regulatory should be enacting change in the environment, and after years of thinking deeply about that, we’ve come to the understanding that we simply don’t have the scale to be able to do that. Sometimes it’s better to be thoughtful, quiet, and under the radar than it is to be out there trying to force people to do things they don’t want to do.
We try to respond in a way that is honest and thoughtful, and we try to establish respectful relationships with the agencies that are quite important. On the technical side, I think we have been very successful in that regard. On the policy side, I think we have not been as successful, and I think that is due to individual agendas and people we simply can’t control. My father always told me, “We’ve been here a long time. We’re going to be here a long time. We’re going to outlive them.”
I’ve known AAHP President Mark Land since the 70s, and one of the things that I give him most credit for, besides being a great leader and a really smart guy, is that he has been able to navigate the heterogeneity of AAHP and keep everybody in the canoe.
It's about rooting for the success of others in this industry and the rising tide principle. The rising tide floats all the ships. That is something that we should continue to try and make happen. I’m optimistic, and I think that the Committee is optimistic, too.
AAHP: Anything else you would like to share?
JB: Homeopathy is a great place to make a long career. The people in the community are honest and hardworking. I think that there’s a lot of respect within the community for different people, and I think that there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic. We should keep plugging away and doing the best we can and the consumers will benefit, which is most important.