I’ve been working at Stacy’s Compounding Pharmacy, in Atlanta, Georgia, for 20 years, and many customers have walked in the lobby and asked “just what is a compounding pharmacy?
When I was a child, I would go to Alpha Drugs, in Alpharetta, Georgia, and while I browsed the comic books I would watch the Pharmacists stirring up mixtures in their mortars with pestles. 50 years later I would do that every day.
A compounding pharmacy is a specific type of pharmacy. They can make customized medications for you, a family member, or even your pet. Some people and animals need medications that aren’t commercially available. They may not be mass-produced, patients may be allergic to certain ingredients,
drugs may be unavailable for long time periods, the need for a different dosage form (e.g. a liquid instead of pills), or need of a specific medication strength. Allergies play a key role. People are sometimes allergic to lactose, so they can’t take the pre-manufactured tablets available.
We can make lactose-free, dye-free, even gelatin-free capsules in these cases. Sometimes animals need human medication but because of weight, a much smaller dose. They may even need the medication but in a non-manufactured suspension or even a transdermal gel (rubbed into the ear pinna).
A compounding pharmacy needs 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.
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. 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.
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.
Most compounding will be self-pay, you may try to get reimbursement from your insurance company that sometimes has a special procedure for compounds. Compounding pharmacies can make items like eye drops, injections, creams, ointments, suppositories, troches, transdermal gels, capsules, and suspensions.