What Are Compounded Medications?

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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The term “compounded medication” may be unfamiliar unless you’ve already been prescribed one of these personalized drugs.

A compounded medication is a drug that is specifically prepared for you, based on a prescription from your doctor. Your pharmacist will mix different ingredients together to create an individualized medication for you, in a specific strength and dosage form.

A prescription for a compounded medication is similar to a recipe—it will contain several parts that must be thoroughly combined in a certain way, depending on how the prescription will be used.

What are compounded medications used for?

Compounded medications can be used for many different conditions, but are more frequently prescribed for topical and oral pain medications, thyroid or hormone replacement, and dermatology.

Who can use a compounded medication?

Anyone—these drugs can be created for all age groups, ranging from newborns to older adults. Because compounded medications are not one-size-fits-all, they can be tailored to your exact needs.

What is unique about compounded medications?

Compounded medications aren’t commercially available. This means that the drug is not currently being made by a pharmaceutical company and therefore doesn’t have a trade or brand name like the typical prescription you would fill at your local pharmacy. They are made for you at the pharmacy, based on your doctor’s prescription.

What is the advantage to a compounded prescription?

Again, compounds can be customized to fit your needs. Custom strengths, and dosage forms can make a familiar medication easier to use. New ingredient combinations can also offer treatments that might not otherwise be available.

What is the disadvantage to a compounded prescription?

Compounded medications can be expensive! Even if you have insurance, some may not be covered—or the compounding pharmacy may not take insurance.

Take note though: you can submit a “universal claim form” to your insurance to seek reimbursement for your compound if you can’t get it covered when you fill up your prescription.

What kind of doctors typically write prescriptions for compounded medications?

Any doctor can write a prescription for a compounded medication, but I’ve seen the most prescriptions come from doctors in these fields:

Can I fill a prescription for a compounded medication at my local retail pharmacy?

Maybe. It will depend on the type of compound you’ve been prescribed, and which pharmacy you use. Some regular retail pharmacies do compounds all the time, while others aren’t as experienced.

A lot of busy retail pharmacies are also so focused on commercially available medications (drugs that don’t require mixing ingredients) that they don’t have the supplies or equipment necessary for the particular compounded medication that your prescription may require.

If you know your doctor is going to prescribe you a compounded medication, be sure to check with your favorite pharmacy to see if they can make your prescription for you. If they aren’t able to, check with your doctor or local retail pharmacy for a suggestion. They should be able to recommend a compounding pharmacy that can meet your needs.

Are there any compounds that are more likely to be available at a retail pharmacy?

Compounded medications use equipment and raw ingredients that a typical retail pharmacy may not have. However, there are a few easy compounds that most retail pharmacies should be able to make for you:

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