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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Retail Pharmacies Versus Compounding Pharmacies

Mar 29, 2018 09:00PM

Tucson is inundated with retail pharmacies. We have them on almost every major street corner. Sadly, the large chains and big box stores have driven most independent retail pharmacies out of the market. However, compounding pharmacies are thriving and here to stay.

Retail pharmacies dispense commercially available manufactured products while compounding pharmacies start from scratch, often beginning with powdered active ingredients. Compounding is not new by any means. Compounding began centuries ago with pharmacists mixing remedies and special formulations. Compounding today has become much more scientific, analytical and standardized. Compounding is the process of creating medications that are unique to each individual thus providing more than the standard one-size-fits-all approach. Considering that a patient’s health care can be as unique as the individual or animal, some of the best medical solutions often arise from compounding.

Compounding is useful in situations where patients are allergic or sensitive to an ingredient in a commercially available medication like a dye, preservative or filler. Compounding allows preparation of medications that are dye-, preservative- and paraben-free. It is also useful when a different dosage form is necessary for administration to a child or pet, for example a flavored liquid versus a tablet. Speaking of pets, compounding is very useful when it comes to medicating a pet. Compounds can be prepared in flavored liquids, chewy treats, transdermal gels and more for animals.

Commercial medications do not always come in the correct dose for a patient and compounding a different strength may be necessary. Sometimes medications are discontinued due to lack of use, however some patients rely on those medications. If they were not removed from the market due to safety issues, compounding pharmacists may be able to prepare them. From time to time, drug companies experience backorders and delays in manufacturing. During those times, pharmacists may be able to compound these medications. Compounding allows providers to be creative and come up with their own formulations, combinations and/or strengths to treat a condition.

Compounding pharmacists work in a triad relationship with a medical/veterinary provider and the patient/pet owner to help customize compounds that are specific to one’s needs. Compounding requires a prescription, even if the medications are available without a prescription. Compounding pharmacists are excellent resources for patients looking for individualized treatment. While pharmacists do not prescribe medications, they educate patients and work directly with patients’ physicians or providers, by recommending therapies, medications and specific dosage forms such as creams, gels, ointments, flavored suspensions, suppositories, capsules, troches, injections, ophthalmics and more.

Dana Reed-Kane, Pharm.D., FIACP, FACA, NFPPhC, FCP, practices at Reed’s Compounding Pharmacy, located at 2729 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson. For more information, call 520-318-4421 or visit

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