What is Compounding?

36404118 - junior pharmacist writing on clipboard at the hospital pharmacy

What is Compounding?

Since the very early days of medicine, pharmacists have prepared compounds to help physicians and veterinarians care for their patients. And while many things have changed, the fact that “one size does not fit all” is still true when it comes to treating modern ailments.

Today’s compounding pharmacists help treat all kinds of conditions, from adults with peripheral neuropathy to pediatric patients in need of liquid dosage forms. We, and our technicians (who really do all of the work!) are problem solvers for the physicians we work with and to the patients we serve.

The majority of medications prescribed today are made in big factories, and for most patients, these products work just fine. However, what happens when a patient must have a particular medication and the manufacturer has a supply issue? What does the patient do if there isn’t a viable alternative medication on the market? Many patients are facing a situation of this type right now as production of two popular commercially prepared thyroid medications recently came to a screeching halt. Compounding pharmacists across the country have been able to help these patients avoid disruptions in their therapy by formulating a viable alternative that can be tailored down to the microgram to meet the needs of each individual patient.

What happens when a child with a rare condition needs a medication that is only available for adults? Compounders can formulate smaller doses of adult medications into liquid dosage forms that children are able to take. And we can make it taste like strawberry bubble gum, too. There is an almost endless array of flavors that can be used to make just about any liquid medication more palatable. Flavoring can really go a long way to improve compliance in children who have to take a lot of medicine and in kids who might have allergies to many of the flavors and/or dyes that are commonly used in commercial preparations.

Natural hormone therapy is another area in which compounding can be useful. Estrogens, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA are commonly prescribed to treat hormone imbalances and these can be formulated into capsules, creams, troches or suppositories at doses specific to address each individual patient’s needs. Through compounding, the problem solving possibilities are just about endless for compounding pharmacists to help people feel better.