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What is the Difference Between a Compounding Pharmacy and a Regular One?

If you haven’t needed custom medications before, you may not even be aware that compounding pharmacies exist that specialize in helping you by creating prescription medications to your specifications.

While the two types of pharmacies are similar, the process by which they dispense your medication is very different. A compounding pharmacy creates custom medications from base ingredients for their patients (and their pets) as needed.

Unlike a big box pharmacy that dispenses a pre-mixed formulation, a compounding pharmacist begins with base drugs, combining and preparing them to create a medication to fit the individual patient’s needs.

Because the compounding pharmacist works with base ingredients, the dosage can be adjusted in very small ratios, rather than simply going with the closest commercially available option.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing, in contrast, makes drugs using pre-set formulas and dosages on a huge scale equaling millions of doses and formulas each year. There’s not much room for custom healthcare with that. Many drugs are also formulated for average body weights or primarily tested on one sex or the other, so they are more of a “one size fits all” approach.

Before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created, compounding was the only way medications were created and pharmacies were referred to as apothecaries. The pharmacist would assess the patient and take recommendations from the doctor before returning to the apothecary to hand-create a precise formula for the patient. Today, pharmacists at compounding pharmacies still work with patients and their doctors to create custom medications. If you break down the ingredients you’ll find that they are virtually identical from a chemical perspective; but they have been customized to remove an inactive ingredient that a patient might be sensitive to, or changed to another form like pill to liquid. Prescriptions are still required, as with a retail chain pharmacy.

However, there are three big differences between a traditional and compounding pharmacy.

  1. Dosage

A compounding pharmacy can create a custom dosage for you. If a pill you need only comes in 50mg and you need 100mg and don’t want to take two pills, a compounding pharmacy could make it in the proper dosage for you. They can also take into account your height, weight, gender, and age.

  1. Form

A compounding pharmacy can remake your medication into a more convenient form for you. That could include liquid, powder, capsule, cream, or ointment. Making your medication easier to take helps ensure you’ll take it which improves your health outcomes.

  1. Customizing

A compounding pharmacist can create a custom medication that can be added to a food or drink, or have a pleasant flavor added to make it easier to take, which is especially helpful for pets and children.

Here are some of the most common areas that compounding pharmacists help with in developing custom healthcare for patients.

  • Dermatology
  • Hormone therapy
  • Pain management
  • Pediatrics
  • Dentistry
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Animal/Veterinary Medicine