Compounding in Pharmacy: How Does It Work?

Pharmacy compounding refers to when a pharmacist makes a customized medication for a patient in the pharmacy. Pharmacists use bulk ingredients and combine them in strict accordance to a recipe created by a doctor. Sometimes, certain patients have unique medical needs that can’t be met by drugs that are commercially available.

Some patients have allergies to certain ingredients such as a dye or a filler. Other times, it is a result of a patient having an intolerance to taking medication in a particular form; topical might be preferred to pill form, or vice versa. Often, pharmacists can create medications for children that have trouble swallowing large pills or have an adverse reaction to medications with a certain taste.

Compounding Risks

While compounding plays an important role in the world of health care, there are certain risks involved. For athletes, it is important to be informed of all the ingredients in compounded medications, as compounded formulations aren’t FDA-approved. They might run the risk of using a medication that will not treat their condition or injury, when a commercially-available form may have.

There is, of course, always the risk of human error. Two unsafe ingredients could be mixed together, or certain side effects of compounded medications could be unknown. It is also more likely that a compounded medication, which does not undergo the same testing as commercially-available products, could react adversely with pre-existing medications the patient is taking.

As the supplies for compounded medications are purchased in bulk for obvious cost-saving reasons, there is always the danger of poor-quality ingredients being used, which could result in patients using ineffective medications.

Sterile practices are also of the utmost importance when it comes to compounding in pharmacies. If surfaces and equipment are not thoroughly cleaned after each medication mixing, ingredients can become cross-contaminated or contain traces of ingredients that could carry allergic risks to some patients.

How Compounding Works

When you see a doctor, your doctor will assess your condition and prescribe a medication. If you have certain allergies or an intolerance to any known ingredient in the medication, a recipe written by the doctor will be given to the pharmacy along with your prescription.

Compounded medications usually take longer to fill than ordinary prescriptions as they are customized, and the compounding area must be adequately cleaned and prepped for the mixing. When it is complete, you will likely receive a call that you can go and pick it up, like any other medication.

As compounding refers to creating custom medications, it is a specific order that has to made in strict adherence to the doctor’s recipe; if it is not, there is a danger of giving a patient ineffective medication, a medication that could contain ingredients that could cause allergic reactions, or the medication could counteract a medication the patient is already on.

When it comes to what compounding pharmacies do, consider the important role of having to customize medications to each and every patient; not everyone can take commercially-available medication. Compounding pharmacies have to be held to strict standards of cleanliness and equipment management as there is always the risk of medications being cross-contaminated if surfaces or equipment is not properly cleaned off and maintained.