8 Things to Know About How a Compounding Pharmacy Works


Compounding pharmacies have been around for centuries, but in recent years they are seeing a resurgence. There are several factors driving this change, but drug shortages and personally tailored health treatments are just a few of these factors. Here are eight things to know about how a compounding pharmacy works:

All pharmacies were compounding pharmacies

At one time all pharmacies were compounding pharmacies. When you needed a medicine, you would visit the pharmacist and he would make you a custom medicine based on the doctor’s order. Remember the old term apothecary? Apothecary is just another word for someone who makes medicines. That’s why some pharmacies are still called apothecaries.

Mass manufacturing changed compounding

Up until the 1960’s, almost all pharmacies were compounding pharmacies. Mass manufacturing of drugs changed this. Drugs could be mass manufactured for less cost and in forms that most patients could use. This dramatically lowered the cost of many medicines and created a one size fits all treatment strategy. Most patients had no problem adjusting to the one size fits all treatment and pharmacists benefited from being able to focus their time and effort on medicines that still needed to be mixed the old-fashioned way.

Compounding allows for alternative medicine forms

Sometimes medicines that are designed to be swallowed are prescribed to young children. If you have ever tried to have a young child swallow a pill for the first time then you know just how difficult that can be. A compounding pharmacy takes the pill and converts it into an alternative form that the child can take. It can be elixir or similar syrupy mix. It could even be turned into a chewable tablet or even a lozenge.

Compounding is state regulated

Compounding pharmacists are regulated on the state level through pharmacy licensing boards. The states come up with the rules for these pharmacies so that they maintain high levels of safety and training. It also ensures that a better-tailored approach to licensing is maintained. The pharmacies are subject to pertinent FDA regulations on medicine and purity. Certain requirements that separate compounding pharmacies from small drug manufacturers are that they can’t manufacture quantities of any drug ahead of time and they can’t make their drugs commercially available in the market. Basically, they just make the medicine after a prescription is given to the patient by the doctor.

Compounding pharmacists have additional training

While compounding has been around for centuries, the training has never been better. Those pharmacists who do compounding have access to be better training and knowledge than ever before. They take their extra training seriously and understand that they are a vital link in delivering better patient care. There are multiple organizations that accredit compounding pharmacies in the US. One of the leading independent organizations is the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board which holds its members to very high standards.

The mortar and pestle are still used

Remember the old pharmacy logos that would display a mortar and pestle? Compounding pharmacists still use the mortar and pestle. They use them to grind up the medicine in order to mix it with other medicines and then put it into a new capsule or in liquid form. The mortar and pestle is a tried and true tool to create a quality medicine. Remember the old manual scale balances? Those have been replaced by electronic scales that are much more accurate.

Compound prescriptions are personally tailored

Compound pharmacists create a personally tailored medicine for patients. They can control the exact strength of the medicine and the method of delivery. When a doctor prescribes a medicine, the medicine dosage is based on many different factors. For many medicines, it doesn’t matter if the dosage is exactly aligned with the body weight and metabolism of the patients. Sometimes it is important that they are aligned correctly and this is where a compounding pharmacist can ensure that the medicine is the right strength for the patient. With the rise in big data analysis, expect that more compound prescriptions will be filled as doctors try to better tailor healthcare treatments.

Compounding pharmacies can alleviate shortages

In the last several years there have been occasional drug shortages that have popped up from time to time in the US. These shortages can be caused by manufacturing bottlenecks or even weather events. For example, Hurricane Maria created several drug shortages because of the temporary closure of pharmaceutical plants in Puerto Rico. Other times these drug shortages are caused by industry trends or consolidation. Compounding pharmacists have the training and expertise to make some of these drugs available on a temporary basis so that patients can continue their treatments.

Compounding pharmacies play a crucial role in the delivery of quality, tailored health care. As healthcare continues to become more tailored thanks to advances in health care analysis, expect that you will hear more about compounding pharmacies and the role they play in better health care.


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