Compounding pharmacies may sound like a new trend, but until the 20th century, all pharmacies were actually compounding pharmacies. Today, this type of business is making a resurgence.
What is pharmacy compounding?
Pharmacy compounding is the science of preparing personalized medications for patients. Pharmacists combine one or more active ingredients into a customized treatment for an individual patient’s needs, so the exact strength and dosage varies depending on the patient.
The history of compounding pharmacies
Prior to the 1950s, all medications were created by compound pharmacists. But compounding took a lesser role when pharmaceutical companies started mass producing medicine that could treat 95% of the population.
Since the 1980s, compounding pharmacies have grown in popularity once again. That’s mainly due to massive drug shortages and the fact that many conventional medications can't treat everyone. Perhaps the medicine works but the side effects are too high or the dosage isn’t quite right. The medicine may not be available in a form the patient can take, or a child may need a medicine that’s not available in a smaller dosage. If a patient has an allergy or sensitivity, a compounded medicine can take those factors into account.
In 2012, compounding pharmacies took a big hit when The New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Massachusetts manufactured steroid shots contaminated with black mold which killed 64 people across the United States during a meningitis outbreak.
Compounding pharmacies also came under fire at this time because critics complained they were being run like large pharmaceutical companies rather than dealing in personalized prescriptions. Advocates admit NECC was operating in direct violation of state law, but say that isn’t a reflection of the rest of the profession.
In November 2013, the Compounding Quality Act was signed into law. It grants the FDA more authority to regulate and monitor compounded drugs. Each compounding pharmacy must register annually and meet certain standards.
The future of compounding pharmacies
Despite the NECC incident, the future of compounding pharmacies seems bright. Though the industry is more complicated than it once was due to increased regulations, the number of students who are choosing a compounding pharmacy as a career is increasing. That could be due to the fact that more pharmacy students consider compounding a more lucrative and challenging business than simply repackaging mass produced medicine.
There’s also a move toward individualized therapy rather than the one-size fits all approach to medicine. David G. Miller, RPh, Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP) recently shared his predictions for the future of pharmacotherapy,
“Pharmacotherapy will be more specific and physicians will be working collaboratively with compounding pharmacists to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to a person’s genetic makeup,“ he told Natural Practitioner Magazine.
In addition to providing supplies of drugs in short supply, compounded drugs are sometimes cheaper, which make them more appealing to the public.
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