Woman carefully getting a test tube

The Forgotten Art and Science of Pharmaceutical Compounding

Woman carefully getting a test tubeCanadians are paying more for prescription medication than most high-income countries.

This is what a 2017 study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found after comparing the volume and cost of primary care prescriptions between Canada and nine other high-income countries (Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands).

In 2015, all these countries except Sweden had a lower average cost (at $122) per-person for prescription medication than Canada. Only the Swiss, at $171, paid more than the $158 Canadians did for primary care prescriptions.

Despite the high cost, Canadians still purchase prescription medications as an important component of healthcare. From pregnancy prevention to the management of chronic conditions, medication impacts every person’s health.

But what most seem to have forgotten is the art of drug compounding. It may be the answer to the burden of expensive prescription medication.

Before There Were Mass Produced Drugs

For over 4,000 years, pharmaceutical or drug compounding has been a part of the practice of pharmacy. Pharmacists, known to be a community’s resource for medication, have been dispensing and compounding drugs for centuries. Before medicines were mass produced and sold over the counter, pharmacists used compounding to adjust dosage quantities to target an individual’s particular ailment.

But what exactly is drug compounding?

The United States Pharmacopeia defines this method as the “preparation, mixing, assembling, altering, packaging, and labeling of a drug, drug-delivery device, or device in accordance with a licensed practitioner’s prescription, medication order, or initiative.”

Basically, drug compounding is the art and science of personalized medicine.

One-size-fits-all vs. Personalized Medicine

Packs of tablet and pill medicinesThe mass manufacturing of prescription drugs may have meant easier access to remedy for different ailments, but this also meant that people were treated in a one-size-fits-all approach. This may be a contributing factor to the high cost of prescription medicine.

Obviously, people have different symptoms when ill and no two sickness are exactly the same. Yet, people are prescribed the same medicine at the same dosage. This prescription might work well for one, but not for the other. As such, the person on whom the medication did not work will often switch to another medicine, causing them to spend more on healthcare.

With compound medicine, The Compounding Centre Pharmacy points out that people can get personalized prescriptions which exclude problem excipients (for instance, those ingredients that can cause an allergy) all in one remedy. With a drug that targets every element of a person’s illness, there’s less need to spend on more than one medicine.

Who Benefits from Compounded Drugs?

According to a paper by Dr Lloyd V. Allen Jr., Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding, compounding is especially important to select patient-group populations.

The pediatric practice benefits greatly from drug compounding since some children either do not want or do not have the capacity to take tablets or capsules. The absence of liquid forms of necessary medicines, compounding is the answer.

Geriatric care encounters the same problems, with the elderly not wanting to or being unable to take their medications. Some also need specific excipients that cannot be found in one drug, so pharmacists compound medicine for them.

Pharmaceutical compounding brings out the true purpose of pharmacists: more than simply dispensing medicine, the process allows for the creation of medications for the betterment of people who need them.