Compounding Pharmacies Explained

When you think of pharmacies, you probably think of community or retail pharmacies where you go to fill your prescriptions and get over-the-counter medications. Your pharmacy could be part of a nationwide chain, or it could be an independent pharmacy.

However, there are different types of pharmacies. Depending on the medication you need, some pharmacies may be better equipped to serve your needs than others.

Read on to find out what a compounding pharmacy is and who can benefit from using one.

What is a Compounding Pharmacy?

Although a compounding pharmacy and a pharmaceutical manufacturer are easy to confuse, the process each follows is very different. In fact, pharmaceutical manufacturers and compounding pharmacies share fewer similarities than differences.

Rather than dispensing pre-mixed medications, compounding pharmacies can create customized medications for their patients using base ingredients. This means that compounding pharmacists can prepare and combine base drugs to fulfill an individual’s needs.

By working with base drugs, a compounding pharmacist can adjust a patient’s dosage precisely and by smaller ratios – meaning that they don’t have to rely on the dosages of pre-made commercial options.

Because pharmaceutical manufacturers create medications on an industrial scale, their drugs are made according to pre-set formulas and dosages. Mass-manufactured drugs are less customizable for individuals with special needs.

The History of Compounding Pharmacies

Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmacies were called apothecaries, and all pharmacists compounded base ingredients to formulate medication for their patients. These pharmacists would assess patients and develop medicines for them based on a doctor’s recommendations.

There is a misconception that compounding pharmacies are unreliable or untrustworthy because some do not have FDA approval. However, they are entirely safe. Compounding pharmacies are registered, licensed, and overseen by state licensing boards.

This oversight ensures that compounding pharmacies use reliable methods and empirical evidence and only work with safe substances when formulating medication for their patients.

The Differences Between Compounding and Retail Pharmacies

The base drugs used in compounding formulas are chemically identical to mass-produced medications. One significant difference, however, is that the compounding pharmacist can customize the ratios of the base ingredients to suit an individual’s needs.

Patients of compounding pharmacies still need prescriptions for prescription medications – as with any other pharmacy.

Compounding pharmacies and retail pharmacies also differ in other ways.

Specialty Medications

If you want a custom formula for a prescription, a compounding pharmacy can do just that. And if you have a fussy child or pet, a compounding pharmacist can meet their needs.

Because compounding pharmacists can personalize medications for the best application, a patient’s parent can even request that the medicine is more palatable to a child or easily hidden in food or drink.

Specialty medications a compounding pharmacy can formulate include medications for dermatology, hormone therapy, sports medicine, pain management, and veterinary medicine for animals. 

Customized Dosages

Suppose a patient requires a dosage of medication that is not available commercially. In that case, a compounding pharmacy can formulate the exact dose.

Often, commercial medications cannot meet specific individual requirements based on weight, height, age, and gender. A retail pharmacy will provide the closest dosage according to what is commercially available.

A more precise dosage means a patient’s condition can be treated more efficiently, and the chances of medication side effects are reduced.

Different Forms of the Same Medication

Using a compounding pharmacy means patients can decide which form their medication comes in – such as powder, capsule, liquid, ointment, or cream.

By choosing the form of medication that best suits an individual patient’s needs, the chances of medication side effects are significantly reduced. For instance, some patients may prefer topical cream instead of oral medication so it does not travel through the digestive tract.

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