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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Genexa: Meeting the Demand for Cleaner Medicines

May 01, 2021 01:00PM ● By Noah Chen

When someone takes Tylenol for a headache, they’re taking more than just acetaminophen, Tylenol’s active ingredient. A Harvard research team found that the average over-the-counter medicine contains nine inactive ingredients, though some have as many as 35.

It wasn’t until longtime friends Max Spielberg and David Johnson both started families that they became aware of how many extra ingredients are included in pharmaceuticals and the problems they can cause.

“We were really looking to do something that had some meaning and could make the world a better place,” says Spielberg. “We saw that most ingredients being used in over-the-counter medicines were basically dirty ingredients.”

Spielberg mentions filler substances like talc—a combination of magnesium, silicon and oxygen—that have been linked to cancer growth with continued exposure over time. Other ingredients, such as synthetic dyes, have been known to cause allergic reactions, making certain medicines inaccessible to an unfortunate few.

Johnson says this awareness led Spielberg and he to get together to “push forward and make a difference in a space that had been lacking change.” The result of their efforts is Genexa, a clean medicine company that manufactures over-the-counter pharmaceuticals without problematic filler ingredients.

Last year, they moved the company to Atlanta from California. “I’ve always loved this side of the country,” says Johnson. “We saw Atlanta as a place of great diversity and a place with great companies to hire from.”

Getting started, their only problem, according to Johnson, was “we didn’t know what we were doing.” Neither he nor Spielberg had a background in medicine, so it took them a while to find partners willing to invest in the research and creation of clean medicine. But once they were able to explain their business pitch to the right people, it became a little easier.

“Who wouldn’t choose beetroot extract over Red Dye No. 40?” says Johnson. “The price is competitive, and the product is cleaner.”

With their funding and development secured, Genexa quickly grew with the help of micro-influencers. “These are the moms and dads, not necessarily big-name influencers, but people who are very passionate about what we are doing,” says Johnson.

After finding success in mom-and-pop shops and with the help of micro-influencers, Genexa expanded into larger retail outlets while maintaining a connection to the community centers that gave them their start. “I’m hoping they get through this,” says Spielberg, noting the asymmetrical impact the COVID pandemic has had on privately owned stores. “They’ve always been an important force in the pharmacy space and the health and wellness space of building a community.”

Genexa has grown more than 100% every year since it was founded in 2017; the brand can now be found in more than 45,000 locations across the country.

Part of Genexa’s growth is due to the fact that, for some, clean medicine is the best option available to them. Spielberg says the most vocal feedback they receive comes from those who take Genexa products because they need the cleaner ingredients.

“With my disability comes so many medical complexities,” says Michaela Davert, a 21-year-old born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes a person’s bones to break easily. “By making small steps like taking Genexa instead of Tylenol, I can give my body the best chance of thriving,” she says.

While Johnson and Spielberg are honored to provide clean pharmaceuticals to those who would face much tougher choices otherwise, they’re also glad they can serve the growing number of savvy consumers who place a premium on clean and organic products.

“There’s been a huge shift when it comes to food and beverages, makeup and pharmaceuticals,” says Johnson. Ultimately, “consumer smarts” are driving the change, and it’s been pushing larger drug companies to acquire other clean startups.

Johnson and Spielberg hopeful for the future. “We’re looking to take on the top products in every category of over-the-counter medicine,” says Johnson, laying out Genexa’s plans for 2021 and beyond.

“We were founded to do something good for the world, and that’s what drives us every day,” says Spielberg. “The future of Genexa is to continue to make clean medicines and the best class of products—and to continue doing what we’re doing now.” 

The Genexa store locator can find the closest Genexa distributor to you. Visit

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