What Is a Compounding Pharmacy?

  • Pharmacy Technician
  • March 12, 2024
  • 3 min read
female pharmacist consults with male patient

If you’ve ever had a prescription filled at your local pharmacy, you’ll know that your pharmacist doesn’t make the drugs on site. You are normally given a certain dosage or amount of your medication from boxes sent to the pharmacy from their suppliers.

While this is a great solution for supplying a large number of people with standardized doses of medication, it does not take into account edge cases who still need mediations, such as a child who can’t swallow pills, a patient with a gluten allergy, or a much-needed drug that’s in short supply.

That’s is where a compounding pharmacy steps in.

What is Compounding?

Compounding is the art and science of creating personalized medicine. If for whatever reason, certain patients can’t be served with mass-produced medications, a compounding pharmacy is able to provide a solution.

Compounding pharmacies create medications on-site using special flavorings, unique dosage forms, and innovative delivery methods to cater to patients with special medication needs. These includes:

  • Patients who save allergies to common ingredients in mass-produced medicine fillers, such as casein, gluten, lactose, and certain dyes.
  • Patients who aren’t able to take medication as prescribed due to unpleasant side effects or lack of improvement.
  • Patients who need custom medicine strengths and dosage forms, like creams or suppositories.
  • Young children who may only need a small, liquid dose of a drug made only in adult-dosage tablets.

Compund pharmacies have also expanded their role in recent years to include, stepping in on a local basis to fulfill drug shortage issues.

How Many Compounding Pharmacies Are There?

According to the IACP, there are 56,000 community-based pharmacies in the U.S. About half of them directly serve local patients and doctors.

Some 7,500 compounding pharmacies specialize in what the IACP calls “advanced compounding services.” Some 3,000 of these pharmacies make sterile products.

Why Have Compounding Pharmacies Been in the News Recently?

Most people aren’t aware of compounding pharmacies, even if they are using one. However, compound pharmacies have made their way into the news cycle recently because of lapses in the creation of sterile medicines that have put people at risk.

The most recent of these lapses occurred when a single pharmacy in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Center (NECC), recalled the 2,410 different drugs that had put 13,000 people in 23 states at risk of deadly fungal meningitis due to fungal contamination of at single-shot syringes filled with a steroid preparation.

One of the major issues with compounding pharmacies is that, while they do produce drugs, they do not count as drug manufacturers and are therefore not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The independent Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB) does offer an official seal of approval to compounding pharmacies, but only purely voluntary basis.

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Samantha Huntsman
Pharmacy Technician Program Chair

Raised in Cedar City in southern Utah, Samantha ended up in Nevada in 2014 after moving here from Minnesota to escape the winter. After graduating from Cedar City High School, Samantha moved to Southern Utah University where she got her…Read Full Bio

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