What's A Compounding Pharmacy, And When Should You Utilize One?

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Usually, when you have a prescription that you need to be filled, you drive down to the local pharmacy, hand them a slip, and wait for them to dispense pills into a bottle for you. However, there are times when visiting this type of dispensing pharmacy is not what you need. Instead, you may need to visit what's known as a "compounding pharmacy." Here's a look at what compounding pharmacies are and the situations in which you should visit one. 

What is a compounding pharmacy?

A compounding pharmacy is one that, rather than simply dispensing medications, formulates medications. They stock a lot of different drugs in their plain powder and liquid forms. They also stock a lot of liquids, powders, and capsules that are used to encapsulate, flavor, and package those medications. With these supplies, they can dispense medications at almost any dose. For example, they can create capsules with 10 mg, 12 mg, or 17 mg of Drug X, while a dispensing pharmacy may only have the mass-made 15 mg pills of Drug X.

Compounding pharmacies can also combine certain medications together. For example, if you need to take Drug X and Drug Y at the same time, the compounding pharmacy can make you capsules that contain both so you only need to swallow one capsule for each dose.

When should you go to a compounding pharmacy?

Your doctor will probably tell you when your prescription needs to be filled at a compounding pharmacy versus an ordinary, dispensing pharmacy. Here are some situations in which they'll make that recommendation.

  • You need the medication in a liquid form.
    • Some medications are typically only sold in capsules or pills. If you have trouble swallowing pills, your doctor may send you to a compounding pharmacy to get those same meds formulated into a liquid instead.
  • The medication needs to be flavored.
    • This is often done for children. A compounding pharmacy can add custom flavors to medications, making them less offensive to kids.
  • You need a different dose.
    • Maybe the drug you need only comes pre-dispensed in 30 mg pills, but your doctor wants you to take 20 mg. A compounding pharmacy can make custom capsules for you.

Once you start going to a compounding pharmacy, you'll see how much more flexible their services are in comparison to those of dispensing pharmacies. You may even start going there for all of your medication needs!