Compounded Medicines: What is It, Safe or Not, Where to Buy
Most patients haven’t even heard about compounds, since they are not so frequently prescribed. Still, there are billions of Americans who can’t do without them. Such products make their lives much easier and happier. Be sure to read this article up to the end, there is a chance that a compounded medicine is a necessity to you or your dear person, too.
Let us discuss this kind of products in detail:
What Is a Compounded Drug?
A compound is a medication that is made in a specialized pharmacy rather than at a factory. Such drugs may be similar to mass-market ones, but original formulas are changed in order to adjust them to the needs of a particular consumer, for example, a pharmacist may exclude some nonessential ingredient, like a coloring or a flavoring agent, or change the portion of an active ingredient.
When Are Such Drugs Prescribed?
There is a wide range of cases when they can help:
- When a patient is allergic or sensitive to some ingredient of a commercialized drug. Today manufacturers tend to use multiple additional ingredients, so that their products look, smell and taste nice. Sure, that help them increase sales volumes, but it also causes problems, since some consumers may suffer from an allergy to these substances and, consequently, they have to refuse from the product. However, such patients still need to be treated, and they have to go and get personalized medicines that do not include the ingredients they cannot bear.
- If a mass-market manufacturer does not offer the dosage needed. Dividing a tablet into portions is not a proper way out. It is almost impossible to get the pieces that are absolutely equal in size, and such violations of the regimen may lead to serious health consequences. And a pharmacist can make a pill containing any dosage of active ingredients required.
- When a patient needs a different form of a product. For example, small kids are usually prescribed liquid forms, like sweet syrups, since it is difficult enough to make a child take a bitter pill or bear an injection. There are also many patients that cannot take oral medications due to all sort of gastrointestinal diseases, they prefer gels, creams and other products for external use.
- A pharmacist can also change the formula, so that a medication does not produce side effects, like sleepiness or some kind of aches.
- Compounded drugs may be used as an alternative to those produced by large manufacturers in case of a supply shortage.
- In some situations a patient and his doctor just cannot find the suitable drug in the market, and a pharmacist can develop and make one.
What Kind of Medicines Can Be Compounded?
An experienced pharmacist can create any kind of medication. Still, he needs special equipment and proper working conditions for that. A specialized pharmacy can produce a complete range of drug forms, including pills, capsules, fast disintegrating tablets, suspensions, syrup, creams, gels, balms, etc. There you can get even sterile medicines, like injectables.
Why Are They Produced in Small Quantities Only?
In fact, the main purpose of compounds is to meet the special needs of a particular patient, so there is no need to make it in bulk. But there is one more significant reason: it is not allowed to make large amounts of such drugs to avoid mass outbursts, in case some safety rules are violated and products get infected. The bigger the quantity of some drug is, the higher the risk is.
Are Compounded Drugs Safe?
You have probably heard of the tragic events associated with the use of such drugs. The main reason for such situations is human flaws. Pharmacies differ, and the quality of their products differs, too. However, one should note that the US government takes decisive steps to change the situation for the better. It is also crucial to highlight that compounded medicines are prescribed only when there are no other options available. In such cases patients and their doctors have no choice.
Where Can I Buy Compounds?
Such medications can be made and purchased in specialized pharmacies only.
They can be made by:
- your physician;
- a licensed pharmacist;
- an outsourcing facility.
In fact, every licensed pharmacist has compounding skills. Still, most of those, who are involved in making personalized drugs, complete additional training courses.
Are Compounded Medicines More Expensive Than Mass-Market Ones?
Compounds are created taking into account all your needs and preferences. They are personalized. And that involves extra costs. So, the prices of compounded drugs are usually significantly higher than those of mass-market ones. However, if you cannot bear the product that is produced by a large manufacturer, you have to opt for a compound and to overpay, there are not so many variants to choose from.
Are Such Drugs Covered By Insurance Companies?
In fact, that depends on the company and plan. There are insurers that do not cover such treatment at all. And many companies set a number of restrictions, for example, they may cover bills from in-network pharmacies only,
So, if you are prescribed a compounded medicine, it is highly advisable to contact your insurer and ask, before visiting a drugstore. As a rule, such situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. By the way, you may also ask your doctor to personally call your insurance carrier, so that he explains to them why you need a personalized medication. That’s the optimal variant.
No doubt, compounding is associated with safety risks, extra expenses and time-consuming bureaucratic problems. But there is another side of the coin. Compounded drugs help people, suffering from allergy and having other sorts of special needs, to get the medicines they need. For such patients that’s the only option available. And, as for safety and bureaucracy issues, they are relatively easy to deal with, if there is a corresponding political will.
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