What are compounding pharmacies?

Before there was mass production of medicines, there was the art of compounding medications. Today compounding pharmacies are popping up in towns across the world.

Back to the mortar and pestle

Most pharmacies today do not make medications to fit the needs of the individual patient. In earlier years, specialists made medications by hand, with a mortar and pestle, for those who needed them. Nowadays, pharmacists at compounding pharmacies take a more high-tech approach, using electronic mortars and pestles and ointment mills.

Why would I need made-to-order medications?

At times a child might need medication in a dosage that is not available in manufactured drugs. Some patients have allergies to an ingredient in a certain medication; a compounding pharmacist could likely make the medication without that ingredient. Or a patient may need a certain medication that pharmaceutical companies no longer produce but that a compounding pharmacy can formulate. Compounding pharmacies can make medications to fit a patient's special needs.

Not just for people

Veterinarians often use compounding pharmacies when certain products their patients need are not otherwise available. An animal may need a different dosage of a medication than the standard medicine offers or may need it in a form that is easier to administer. Sometimes an animal needs a medication that is available for humans but not for animals. In that case a compounding pharmacy can formulate the medicine specifically for the animal.

How to find a compounding pharmacy

To find one in your area, call local pharmacies, check with your doctor's office, or visit the websites of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP) or the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB). You can also check the local phone book.


Compounding pharmacists must have extra training and must have received PCAB accreditation.

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About the Author

As a nationally published writer, Carolynn Rae has been writing for more than 12 years. Graduating from Mount Vernon Nazarene College with an associate's degree in music education, she taught school music and over the years changed to writing for her artistic outlet. She currently writes a column, "Out of My Mature Mind," is a newspaper reporter, and writes for various publications and websites.