What is a Compounding Pharmacy? (And How Can One Help You)
A compounding pharmacy is an unknown term for many people, even though when you delve into the details of compounding pharmacies you will discover that it is very similar to the original pharmacy model.
Compounding pharmacies focus on the fact that certain medications need to be tailor-made for an individual — the way that apothecaries of the past used to make them.
Read on to learn the difference between compounding pharmacies and non-compounding or “regular” pharmacies, what can compounding pharmacies make, how compounding can help patients, and how to know that you choose a good one.
What is the difference between a compounding pharmacy and a “regular” pharmacy?
The majority of pharmacies as you know them today are not compounding pharmacies, even though they may occasionally mix up a mouthwash or flavor a medication (these are both technically compounding.)
Most of your pharmacies that come to mind when you picture a pharmacy are non-compounding pharmacies, meaning that the vast majority of their prescriptions are filled by counting, measuring, or weighing out a specified amount of a manufactured medication without changing it at all.
There is still quite a lot of important tasks to be done at these pharmacies, including verifying the dose, correct medication, strength, insurance, and directions — but physically making the medication is generally not one of them.
Compounding pharmacies, on the other hand, function by keeping a lot of the ingredients to make medications on hand.
Think of it like a place where you buy cakes: a compounding pharmacy is like a bakery that has flour, sugar, baking soda, and cocoa powder in stock to bake cakes when they are ordered, while a normal pharmacy is like a corner store that sells cakes which had been premade and sold to them from a cake-maker.
Both pharmacies still need a valid prescription from a licensed doctor in order to put your prescription together, a compounding pharmacy just may need a little more time since they are actually mixing up your medication from scratch.
What kinds of medications can a compounding pharmacy make?
An important distinction to make about compounding pharmacies, however, is that they can’t just go around making medications that are already on the market and are identical to a manufactured item. That would be unfair to the manufacturers of the commercial product, and it is not allowed in compounding. In those cases where a manufactured medication is already available, your doctor will likely direct you to a pharmacy that has it in stock, and you will use that.
Compounding pharmacies make medications that people need that either have to be changed up in some way, put into a different delivery form, or are discontinued or not currently available on the market. This means that if you have an allergy to gluten or lactose or a dye that is inside the commercially made tablet, your doctor may be able to write you a prescription to have it compounded without that allergen. Or, there may be a person who can’t take pills yet the only manufactured product is a tablet. A compounding pharmacy may be able to make the medication into a liquid formulation for you. Alternately, perhaps there is a medication that you have been on for years but it has recently become unavailable. Your doctor can evaluate if they still want you on the medication, and order it to be made up especially for you at a compounding pharmacy in order to continue your therapy.
Who can a compounding pharmacy help?
Anyone who needs a medication made up that is different in some way than a commercial manufactured pharmaceutical product may benefit from getting a compounding prescription. This can include people who prefer flavored liquid medications over available capsules or tablets, those who like creams over gels, anyone who is on a dose that is different from what is available, or patients that have allergies to common fillers.
Compounding also benefits prescribers, as not every treatment currently has a manufactured option. Maybe a prescriber has found that a mixture of ingredients in a cream, capsule, or solution really helps patients suffering from a certain condition and the doctor wants them to have their therapy altogether in one product. Alternatively, maybe the doctor feels that a person should be on a strength of a medication that doesn’t exist in the manufactured product — the doctor can order a customized dose from a compounding pharmacy that can help avoid messy pill splitting or potential dosing errors for the patient. Compounding pharmacies help prescribers order medications for their patients that are customized to the specific person’s preferences, lifestyle, tastes, and conditions.
How much does compounded medication cost?
Compounded medications may have different costs depending on the pharmacy that you get them from, and this makes sense because each pharmacy is having to order in each ingredient, in addition to making up the product. So the specific costs to each facility to make up your product may be different, leading to a different price for the patient.
Certain compounded medications may be covered by insurance, but this is much less common than with non-compounded medications. You may commonly find that compounded medications are cash only.
Depending on what is being crafted for you, this can be very time consuming, painstaking, or require expensive equipment, so it is possible that the cost is higher than what you may expect to pay for a prescription for tablets that were only counted out into a bottle.
If you have a prescription for a compounded item, you may want to speak with a compounding pharmacy before filling the prescription and ask them what the cost of the medication will be.
How can you be sure you found a good compounding pharmacy?
In order to be a compounding pharmacy, facilities are subject to regular inspections ensuring that they are abiding by the standards issued by USP regarding compounding.
Additionally, some compounding pharmacies receive additional accreditations like PCAB through the Professional Compounding Accreditation Board. With additional accreditations, the compounding pharmacy is subject to stricter rules and regulations regarding ensuring high-quality techniques, ingredients used, and consistency in compounding.
If you want to look into finding a PCAB accredited pharmacy in your area, you can look on the PCAB website.
Once you have found a PCAB pharmacy, speak with the staff, pharmacists, and look at their website to see if they can answer all of your questions and fill you with confidence. Finding a compounding pharmacy you trust will provide you with a great resource for all of your future compounding needs.
Strut Health compounded medications
Here at Strut Health, we carry both compounded and non-compounded therapies through a free online consultation with our doctors.