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Compounding is the process of mixing different medications to fit the unique needs of a patient. This may be done for medically necessary reasons, such as to change the form of the medication from a solid pill to a liquid, to avoid a non-essential ingredient that the patient is allergic to, or to obtain the exact dose needed. It may also be done for voluntary reasons, such as adding favorite flavors to a medication, decreasing medication dosages for children, or to make medications that are tolerable for animals.

The art of compounding has ancient roots. Hunter-gatherer societies had some knowledge of the medicinal properties of the animals, plants, molds, fungus and bacteria as well as inorganic minerals within their environment. Ancient civilizations utilized compounding for religion, grooming, keeping the healthy well, treating the ill and preparing the dead. These ancient compounders produced the first oils from plants and animals. They discovered poisons and the antidotes for them. They made ointments for wounded patients as well as perfumes for customers.

Compounded medicines are a vital part of quality medical care

Today a growing number of people have unique health needs that off-the-shelf prescription medicines cannot meet. For them, customized, compounded medications prescribed or ordered by licensed physicians or veterinarians, then mixed safely by trained, licensed compounding pharmacists are the only way to better health. Compounding is in even greater demand for treating animals because of the relatively narrow selection of medicines that are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.

Pharmacists are the only health care professionals that have studied chemical compatibilities and can prepare alternate dosage forms.  In fact, each state requires that pharmacy schools must as part of their core curriculum instruct students on the compounding of pharmaceutical ingredients. Because every patient is different and has different needs, customized, compounded medications are a vital part of quality medical care.

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) along with the local State Board of Pharmacy (BOP) regulates all compounding pharmacies. Both entities are official public standards–setting authorities for all prescription and over–the–counter medicines and other health care products compounded, dispensed, manufactured, or sold, first by the BOP in the state where the pharmacy resides in, and second nationally by the USP.