An employee showing pills are being broken down into a new compound

This year we celebrated our 58th year serving families and friends in St. Thomas and Elgin County. Although I wasn’t around when the doors first opened, customers have shared stories about how many medications were made in the pharmacy under the careful watch of our founder, the late Ed Yurek. This is of course in contrast to now when most medications are mass produced by large pharmaceutical companies.

Today, many pharmacists have lost the art of making medications and rely solely on packaged pills produced in bulk. The art of making medications — or compounding — is something that is re-emerging. It is an established tradition, which allows a physician to prescribe a very specific medication, prepared by a pharmacist, for a patient’s individual needs. Specific training is required as well as proper equipment and policies and procedures. Pharmacies that specialize in compounding need to invest a great deal of time and resources to ensure that the products they make are of high standards and pharmaceutical quality.

In 2006, a group known as the Compounding Guidelines Task Force (CGTF) was directed to determine when it is appropriate to compound and how to compound. They determined that the key elements of good compounding include qualified and trained personnel, adequate premises and space, approved compounding procedures and instructions, suitable equipment, labels and containers, and accurate documentation.

When and why do we compound? While the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry has brought major advancements in research and development of new medications, the individualized therapy can get lost. The “one-size-fits-all” nature of many mass-produced medications meant that some patients’ needs were not being met. Here are a few examples:

  • Some patients are unable to tolerate a filler or colorant in the medication;
  • The medication may not be available in a suitable form (for example as suspension for a child);
  • Doses not commercially available;
  • Medications on back-order or no longer made.

These are all good examples of where having a medication compounded by a skilled pharmacy would serve the patient’s needs. We have often been asked by doctors to make a medication that is no longer available as it was the only effective treatment for their patient. In many instances, we make liquid formulations for children unable to swallow the commercial tablets/capsules. Our topical pain gels and creams bring relief to people without major side effects. We even make mixtures for your four-legged, furry friends. The big pharmaceutical companies will always have medications for the masses, but when you need something for a specific, individual need, your compounding pharmacist is there! Take care of yourselves and each other.