If you’re asking what is pharmacy compounding and wondering why you haven’t heard of it before, you’re not alone. Many people are not familiar with the compounding pharmacy service because its popularity waned as soon as the commercial production of drugs took off.

Before the 1950’s, pharmacy compounding was a mainstream service. It had been a longstanding tradition and almost all prescribed medications were tailored to fit individual patient needs. When pharmaceutical drug companies entered the picture, they began mass-producing medication for specific ailments that could be used by the majority of the population. Suddenly, pharmacy compounding was no longer the norm, and most pharmacists were dispensing manufactured dosages more often than they were preparing specialized medications and dosages.

Although relegated to the background, pharmacy compounding has proven over the years to be indispensable. After all, commercial drugs cannot meet every patient’s needs, and there will always be individuals who require compounded medications.

The Benefits of Pharmacy Compounding are Easy to Understand 

There are many benefits of pharmacy compounding, which makes the practices very different from mass drug manufacturing. ‘Compounding’ refers to the process of customizing a medication to fit the unique needs of a patient. Because the medication is prepared by a pharmacist and follows the exact specifications of the prescribing physician, it has many benefits that mass produced drugs can’t provide.

A physician typically recommends compounded medication under these conditions:

There is no mass-produced drug that can treat the patient’s medical condition.

  • The patient is allergic to a filler or dye used in the commercial tablet.
  • The dosage and size of the capsule does not suit the patient (for example, an extra-large, high-dosage capsule that cannot be taken by children or by people who have trouble swallowing large pills).
  • The required medication is in short supply or is no longer being manufactured.

Pharmacists whip up compounded medication to match the patient’s requirements:

They can exclude a nonessential ingredient (example: dye, gluten) that could trigger an allergic reaction in the patient.

  • The dosage can be adjusted.
  • More-palatable flavoring can be added to appeal to children, seniors, or people who have a strong aversion to the typical flavoring of the medication.
  • They can prepare a different form of the medication (example: topical creams or ointments) for people who find it hard to swallow pills or when oral medication causes an upset stomach.

What is a Compounding Pharmacy?

All pharmacies will practice some degree of compounding, but only a limited number focus on this practice. So, what is a compounding pharmacy, and how can you distinguish them from those that aren’t?

In a compounding pharmacy, licensed and trained pharmacists routinely formulate special preparations as requested by physicians.

  • They use graduated cylinders and scales, spatulas, a mortar and pestle, and pill tiles.
  • Compounding pharmacies usually offer both non-sterile and sterile preparations.  The non-sterile are creams, ointments, capsules and liquids not used in sensitive parts of the body. Sterile medications require 100% sterility because they are injected into the blood or body tissues.

In the United States, approximately 7,500 of the 56,000 community pharmacies are compounding specialists. Certain hospital pharmacies and other health care facilities also provide compounded medications.

Learning what a compounding pharmacy is compared to one that is not creates awareness of the different delivery systems for prescriptive medications—pills capsules, creams, salves, injections—as well as the different sizes, dosages, and flavors that can be provided, or the  elimination of nonessential additives. An alternative to commercially available drugs, compounded medication suits patients with special medical conditions or issues. Where health is concerned, it is important that we all get what we need.

Patients: The compounded medications are available by prescription only. Please discuss it with your physician, or contact us with your physician’s name and contact information, and we can supply him or her with additional information.

Doctors: Contact us today to speak with our pharmacists to discuss other combinations that may be available to improve your patient’s symptoms and increase medication compliance.

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