Friday, May 18, 2012

Why We Need and Must Have Compounded Medications

In the wake of the tragic deaths in Franck's (Florida), Apothecure (Texas) and Meds IV (Alabama), it is important to not lose sight of the fact that we need and must have compounded medications.    If these medications were not available, some patients  (both humans and animals) would suffer and some could die. This was explained by Loyd V. Allen, Jr., Ph.D., R.Ph., Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding, when he testified on April 19, 2007, before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington, DC.  During his testimony he explained:

Millions of Americans have unique health needs that off-the-shelf prescription medicines cannot meet. For many of them a customized, compounded medication prescribed by licensed physicians or veterinarians and mixed by trained, licensed compounding pharmacists are the only way to better health. If customized medicines were not available, some of our most at-risk patients would needlessly suffer and some would die.

Allen also gave excellent examples of those who rely on compounded medications:

• Infants and children: Compounding pharmacists can transform medicines from
hard-to-swallow pills intended for adults into syrups, elixirs, suspensions, and
emulsions for children, at the request of physicians. Flavors offered by
compounding pharmacists can make drugs more palatable to children. In
addition, premature infants often rely on lifesaving and life-sustaining drugs made
only in compounding pharmacies.
• Hospital patients: Many, if not most, of the lifesaving intravenous drugs given in
hospitals and clinics are compounded. Because hospital patients are often on
multiple medications, compounding them into one treatment saves the hospital
personnel time and the patient multiple injections or administrations.
• Cancer patients: Cancer treatment often involves special mixtures of cancer drugs
that are compounded pursuant to a doctor’s prescription. Pharmacists can
combine multiple drugs into one treatment, leading to shorter administration times
for cancer patients.
• Senior citizens: Elderly patients often have difficulty with traditional dosage
forms, such as pills taken orally. Compounding pharmacists create alternate
methods of delivery, like transdermal gels, to make it easier for the elderly to take
their medicine.
• Pets: Animals come in all shapes and sizes, so one-size-fits-all pharmaceuticals do
not always meet their needs. In many cases, a compounded medication may be
necessary for a non-food animal to be satisfactorily treated.
• Patients with allergies: Patients who are allergic to a preservative, dye, flavor or
other ingredient in commercial products can have their doctor write a prescription
for a compounding pharmacist to customize the same medication without the
offending ingredient.
• Menopausal women: Many women experience significant pain and discomfort as
their bodies’ progress through menopause. Doctors prescribe bioidentical
hormones for patients for whom synthetic hormone treatments may be ineffective
or produce undesired side effects. Several bioidentical hormone products are
available in FDA-approved, one-size-fits-all formulations from pharmaceutical
companies. However, physicians may determine that their patients have unique
needs that warrant prescribing a different compounded hormone treatment. This
often allows patients to take the smallest amount of a given hormone preparation
to treat their symptoms, in conjunction with the recommendation provided by the
Women’s Health Initiative study.
• Patients who require non-traditional dosage forms: Many patients are unable to
take medications orally or as injections – the traditional dosage forms for
manufactured drugs. Compounding pharmacists can create alternate methods of
delivery, like ointments, solutions or suppositories, to fit these patients’ unique
health needs. The pharmaceutical industry supplies only limited strengths of
drugs, which some patients cannot tolerate. It is often necessary for a doctor to
request a different strength of a drug for a patient through compounding.
• Patients who rely on discontinued drugs: Pharmaceutical manufacturers have
discontinued thousands of drug products over the years, due to low profitability.
For certain groups of patients, these were very effective, important, and
sometimes life-saving medications. Such medications are now only available if a
doctor prescribes them to be compounded.
• Hospice patients: End-of-life therapy involves the compounding of many different
and unique dosage forms to allow patients to live out their lives free of pain and
discomfort. Many combinations of drugs are prescribed by doctors and used for
these patients who cannot swallow medications and who don’t have the muscle
mass that is required to receive multiple injections each day. Compounding
pharmacists can provide alternate delivery methods such as oral inhalation, nasal
administration, topical, transdermal or rectal use.
These are important examples of why we need and must have compounded medications in the United States.  The problems in the tragic cases do not suggested that the practice of compounded medications must be stopped; instead, the tragedies shows that the rules and regulations relating to compounding need to be complied with by pharmacies, doctors, veterinarians and enforced by state boards of pharmacy, state boards of medicine, state veterinary boards and the United States Food and Drug Administration.   To read the entire transcript of Dr. Allen's testimony, click here.

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