Home Life The Voices Behind ‘The People’s Pharmacy’

The Voices Behind ‘The People’s Pharmacy’

You might recognize Joe and Terry Graedon's voices... but do you know their story?

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Photo by Briana Brough

Joe and Terry Graedon can often be found at Carrboro Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, under the radar.

But occasionally, someone will overhear them chatting and recognize their familiar voices.

“They’ll come up to us and say, ‘I know who you are,’” Terry laughs, almost surprised at her celebrity status as one half of the duo behind The People’s Pharmacy, the award-winning national radio show produced in our backyard at WUNC’s Durham studios.

“And very often,” she adds, “they go on to say, ‘Thank you for your show.’”

It’s no wonder the show has a dedicated following, both at home and nationwide. For almost 40 years, the couple has been dispensing medical wisdom on everything from breaking news to home remedies. Their weekly show, broadcast over 200 national stations, reaches an estimated 200,000 listeners.

Joe, an adjunct assistant professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and Terry, a medical anthropologist, also write a syndicated newspaper column and have co-authored 20 books on a range of health topics.

Surprisingly, they initially only signed a one-year contract because they figured they’d bail out. “I thought, how in the world are we ever going to write something new and fresh for a year?” recalls Joe, from the living room of his house nestled in the woods on Chapel Hill’s border.

I thought, how in the world are we ever going to write something new and fresh for a year?

Terry smiles, adding: “[But] we haven’t run out of anything to say.”

The couple met as grad students around a community pool in Ann Arbor. Years later, Joe followed Terry to Durham when she received an appointment at the Duke University School of Nursing.

Around the same time, he had published “The People’s Pharmacy,” a comprehensive guide to prescription drugs, which quickly became a New York Times best-seller. Acclaim from the book led to a solo weekly radio gig, but it wasn’t before long that he asked his wife to join him in the studio.

“Having Terry there just made it more relaxing, more fun,” Joe says. “We’re better than the sum of our parts, for sure.”

The couple – who raised two children here (both went to the Carolina Friends School) – also credit their hometown for some of their success.

Here we are years later, and I would have to tell you that you wouldn’t get me out of [Chapel Hill] with any enticement.

“When we first arrived here in the summer of 1975, Durham and Chapel Hill were very different. I wasn’t quite sure this is where I wanted to land,” recalls Joe. “Here we are years later, and I would have to tell you that you wouldn’t get me out of here with any enticement. We get to talk to some of the coolest people in the world who are doing some of the most interesting research. This is the ideal place for us.”


SOME OF THE GRAEDONS’ FAVE HOME REMEDIES:

Burns Apply yellow mustard, vanilla, aloe vera or soy sauce

Cramps Eat a few packets of yellow mustard

Hiccups Chew on some chocolate chips

Arthritis Swallow some gin-soaked raisins or juniper berries

Nail fungus Slap some vapor rub on toenails

Sunburn Slather on some Greek yogurt