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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Modern Compounding Pharmacy

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A Compounding Pharmacy is a branch of pharmacy that tailors drugs and prescription medication to meet the specific needs of individuals. As compared against traditional pharmacists who simply dispense pre-packaged manufactured medications based on physician requests, compounding pharmacists cater to the needs or likes of individuals by mixing, adding, or altering certain ingredients. Done under special sanitary hoods, compounding pharmacists can alter the dosage amount, dosage form, cut out certain allergens, add flavors, or create drugs that have been discontinued by pharmaceutical manufacturers due to low profits. This type of pharmacy has proved particularly successful in sports medicine, pain management, veterinary medicine, hospice care, and most recently, hormone replacement therapy.

Interestingly, pharmacies in America began with compounding methods and continued until the mid-1900s when large drug manufacturers changed the practice by creating cheaper, mass produced products. Despite the modern prevalence of drug companies, small numbers of compounding pharmacists still exist to create drugs for patients requiring unique circumstances. In East Lansing, Michigan (pdf), Dr. Sam Alawieh runs University Compounding Center (UCC), a specialized facility focusing on this type of pharmacy. In particular, the druggists at UCC are responsible for mixing medications for a variety of individualized reasons, but cater to people who need or want customized hormone replacement therapy. Some of the recent formulations created by the UCC include:

  • Customized Hormone Replacement Creams applied to the skin as opposed to orally
  • Oral Time-released Capsules which are released into the body over a longer period of time to extend the hormone
  • Sublingual Drops or Troches which are used in cases where the patient has difficulty absorbing creams through the skin, stomach, or liver
  • Cream Pumps or Syringes
  • Combination Hormones in creams or capsules

Compounded pharmacy is a beneficial alternative to traditional pharmacy because it enhances patient treatment. The ability to cater to an individual’s special, specific needs provides greater care and attention. However, as with any drug, there are risks associated with using a compound formula and you should talk to your physician about whether compounding is right for your specific needs.