A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Simple Solutions for medication and supplement administration
By Mika Bradford CN, CPhT, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
So often clients and customers I work with ask how they can reduce the number of pills they are taking each day because the number of pills seems daunting when they combine their medications and dietary supplements. The reasons why some clients want to reduce the number of pills they’re taking can vary but quite often it is because they are no longer able to easily swallow them. Complicating side effects from health conditions, limitations from surgical procedures, poor absorption of pills through the gastrointestinal tract, feeling nauseas or simply being tired of choking down handfuls of pills each day were the most common of reasons.
If clients are taking medications, the first step is to have them meet with their physician to see if there are suitable options that could substitute the medications currently being taken, whether it is a smaller pill or change in the frequency of administration or delivery method. We then review their dietary supplements to ensure specific nutrients are not overlapping in excess of what their individual needs actually are. Once we have identified all small pills, liquid and powder substitutes that are available over the counter we would begin to identify which products were not. Working with the client’s physician and our local compounding pharmacy, we proceeded to identify which products and formulas can be compounded into liquids powders or creams. Quite often products can be combined to lessen the number of individual items being taken. Of the many compounded delivery methods for medications and dietary supplements, clients are often surprised that many products can be compounded into a topical cream.
The market for compounded topical medications including lotions has grown tremendously in the past four years. Topical formulas allow products to be absorbed easily through the skin allowing the medications to bypass any problems with malabsorption, moving too slowly or too fast through the digestive tract. Topical medications are often prescribed for individuals who have chronic pain, allowing the medication to be applied to a specific area of the body. The benefit is twofold in that the medication is applied to the specific area of concern and its effects can strategically impact a specific region of interest instead of being dispersed throughout the entire body. This also minimizes the possibility of creating a dependency for drugs that are known to be addictive. Other products commonly compounded into creams are scar reducing formulas, nauseas reducing medications and some dietary supplements.
Not all medications and dietary supplements can be compounded into a topical cream. The size and structure of each ingredient must be small enough to pass through the skin when combined with an appropriate carrier agent or base. Topical medications can be helpful for many different reasons. Some of these reasons can include the following conditions or circumstances:
- Swallowing difficulties
- Having texture and taste sensitivities
- Diminished absorption due to the surgical alteration of the digestive tract like those who have had bariatric surgery
- Slow movement of food through the digestive tract (slow motility)
- Extreme nauseous
- Minimization of the possibility of addiction from pain medications
There are limitations to what can be compounded and a few of those reasons can include:
- Poor absorption through the skin of a specific chemical
- Topical medication is already available by a manufacturer
- Lack of stability studies on the product trying to be compound
In order to create a topically applied medication, the ingredients and other raw materials must be ordered and then blended in the right proportions. Many formulas for topically applied medications are available to pharmacies through their participation in professional organizations for compounding pharmacies and pharmacist. The art of compounding goes much deeper as medications are able to be produced at the specific dosages instructed by the physician. Topically applied medications, liquids and powders are available only after acquiring a prescription from your physician and then can be filled through a compounding pharmacy. Whether you are tired of popping pills or need to find solutions for a family member or loved one, it’s important to know you have options.
Mika Bradford is a certified nutritionist and pharmacy technician. Mika has spent over a decade working in the manufacturing, retail and the clinical application of nutritional supplements. She has worked closely with clients facing a wide range of health issues, including those with special needs and long-term health conditions. For questions call 817-705-7221.