What is Compounding Pharmacy?

Sometimes, a standard treatment approach only works well for some individuals, which means that a regular dispensing pharmacy cannot meet some patients’ needs. Compounding pharmacies can tailor-make their medications to suit the needs of their patients, which optimizes access to the best treatment.

The Definition of Compounding Pharmacy

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines pharmacy compounding as the mixing, combining, or altering of active pharmaceutical ingredients to make a customized medication for an individual patient. While it is customized, the patient must still have a doctor’s prescription.

Compounding pharmacies may do the following:

  1. Production of medications to third parties, such as clinics, hospitals, health professionals, and other health care facilities.
  2. The production and shipping of drugs across state lines
  3. Delivery of compounded medications that don’t need a prescription. 

Normal pharmacists dispense medications that arrive at their pharmacy. However, compounding pharmacists actually make medication for each patient depending on their unique needs, as long as that drug is not available from existing drug manufacturers.

The ingredients are kept in the compounding pharmacy and are combined when a patient needs a particular treatment. Tablets are hardly compounded; however, creams, ointments, lozenges, liquids, suppositories, and capsules are the compounded drugs you would commonly see.

Reasons Why Patients Use Compounded Medications

Compounding pharmacies are usually preferred by patients who have the following conditions.

Pain management

A personalized pain management approach is one of the most common reasons why compounding pharmacies are popular. For patients who deal with chronic/long-term pain, making a compounded drug is often the best solution.

While patients may find a pain medication that works, it would carry the risk of tolerance, dependence, and addiction as they are usually controlled substances. This is yet another reason why they prefer a compounded pain medication, so they have a treatment that is safe and effective.

Thyroid problems

Thyroid problems are unique to each patient that deals with them, so one standard medication may not be the answer for everyone. Most of the time, they need special-made medication for each case of thyroid issues.

Compounding pharmacists have lots of experience dealing with combining thyroid medication for individual patients.

Skin problems

Some patients with certain skin irritations and problems have an issue finding the correct treatment. This is especially difficult for those who are overly sensitive. This is another reason why they opt for compounded medications, creams, transdermal gels, and other topical agents.


Hormone therapy and supplements offer symptomatic relief for both men and women. While general pharmacies may provide these types of therapies, they can be too strong or too weak for some patients.

Therefore, compounding pharmacists must create their own hormone therapy according to the patient. This helps them meet their hormonal needs and have relief.

Pets and children

Personalized medications for pets and children are extremely beneficial, as drug compounding can make the treatments easier to administer. It is also beneficial if the child or pet needs a specific treatment that standard pharmacies may not have.

For animals especially, general pharmacies may offer too high dosages. Most of the time, compounding pharmacies have to make a special dose for the animal according to their weight, age, and medical condition.

This is the same with children. Compounding pharmacies can also change the dosage form of the medication or add some flavor to make it more palatable to the pet or child.

What Is the Difference Between a Compounding Pharmacy and A Regular Pharmacy?

The main difference between a compounding pharmacy and a regular pharmacy is that a compounding pharmacy can give patients tailored services for patient medications, while general pharmacies cannot.

Here are other differences between these pharmacies.

Altering forms of medicines

Compounding pharmacies can change the form of your prescription medication according to the patient’s specifications. This is something that standard pharmacies cannot do. For example, if you are suffering from back pain but prefer to have a topical cream instead of prescription pain medication.

Choosing and changing the form of medication can be beneficial in various ways, as it ensures that the patient gets exactly what works for them. Certain prescription medications that have a risk of dependency/addiction can be avoided with compounded drugs.

 A compounding pharmacist can alter prescription medication into:

  • Cream
  • Liquid form
  • Ointment
  • Powder
  • Tablet

Personalized dosages

Patients can order a tailor-made dose of any medication they have. General pharmacies only offer a range of different standardized doses; compounding pharmacies are able to create a specific dose of the same medication that will fit the patient’s needs, rather than them experiencing side effects from the standardized doses.

For example, some pain medications start from 25mg and go up to 150mg. Some patients would need an in-between compounded drug dosage for a better effect. This can be helpful in different types of cases of prescriptions.

Combining medications

Compounding pharmacies can also combine medications for patients. Many individuals have to take multiple oral medications daily, which may have disadvantages such as forgetting to take a dose or having too many side effects. Licensed pharmacists at a compounding pharmacy can combine multiple medications into one convenient capsule.

Certain unavailable medications can be given at a compounding pharmacy

Compounding pharmacies can create discontinued or unavailable medications. This is in the event that a standard pharmacy stops dispensing a certain medication, or it may have been discontinued.

With a healthcare professional’s go-ahead, a compounding pharmacy can ensure that the patient still receives the necessary treatment.

Custom children’s medication

Giving a child medication can be tough, especially if it has to be taken every day or it does not taste pleasant. While general pharmacies cannot alter this, compounding pharmacies can.

They can create or alter the medications for easier administration to children. They may make the medication into a powder to mix in food or drinks or into an ointment to apply to the skin. Compounding pharmacists can even put different flavorings for oral drugs, so your child will not fight against them.

Pharmaceutical compounding can remove an allergen

A compounded drug can be modified to remove certain ingredients which give you an allergic reaction. Examples of allergens in medications include certain dyes, gluten, and lactose. By letting your pharmacist know about your allergies, they can remove these ingredients completely.

How Do I Know If Pharmaceutical Compounding Is Safe?

Compounded drugs do not have to go through the FDA process to be made and sold. So, they do not study the medication for effectiveness and safety. However, three groups regulate the making and quality of compounded treatments.

This is the:

Regulatory standards are set to ensure that the medications made by compounding pharmacies are safe and healthy for patients. There are only certain healthcare professionals, such as licensed pharmacists, are allowed to make medications.

USP also made some standards to further ensure that human drug compounding is high quality. These guidelines set the quality standards for the ingredients used in these medications. They also state the standard of how the compound should be made, tested, and verified. Most states require these pharmacies to comply with these USP standards.

Compounding pharmacies are also regulated by their state Board of Pharmacy. This also makes sure that the pharmacy reaches all the expectations. The board will take action if they do not follow the proper standards.

Some pharmacies can also be inspected by the FDA if needed. All these regulations ensure that customized medication for patients is completely safe for consumption.


Are compounded drugs approved by FDA?

No. The FDA does not confirm the safety or effectiveness of compounded medications. Healthcare professionals and patients rely on the state boards, not FDA approval.

Was the fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012 a result of compounded drugs?

Yes, it was the most serious adverse event that was associated with mislabeled, contaminated, and poor-quality compounded medications. This caused the fungal meningitis outbreak, which affected many and caused deaths.

Compounders did not report the side effects to the FDA, which is why a plan of action was delayed. However, it does not mean that all compounding pharmacies are irresponsible like this.

You should always opt for the most reliable pharmacy that includes you in the planning process of your medication.

What does compounding mean in pharmacy?

Compounding is the process of making a drug or medication from two or more ingredients. For example, a pharmacist may compound a cream for athlete’s foot by combining an antifungal with a soothing moisturizer.

Compounded medications can be in pill form, ointment, cream, or liquid. They can be for oral use, topical use, or injection. The most common type of compounded medication is a topical cream or ointment. This is because compounded medications can be customized to meet the specific needs of each patient. For example, if a patient has an allergy to one of the ingredients in a prescribed medication, the pharmacist can customize a new medication without that ingredient.

How much does a compounding pharmacy technician make?

5 Tips To Ace Your Training And Get Ahead As A Compound Pharmacy Technician


Compounding pharmacies are a specific type of pharmacy that caters to all patients’ medical needs. While they are not FDA-approved, they are regulated and monitored to ensure they follow proper quality and manufacturing practices.

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