What Does a Compounding Pharmacist Do?

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You may have seen or heard the word “compounding” at your local pharmacy but have you ever wondered what it meant?

The World’s Oldest Profession?

Pharmacy isn’t the oldest, but it’s one of the world’s oldest professions. In fact, its roots go back 4000 years, almost to the beginnings of civilization. Pharmaceutical compounding has been around even longer. Primitive hunters and gathers knew all about medicinal plants, animals, and minerals and made medicines to treat almost any sickness or injury.

From Coal Tar to Medicine

The modern science of compounding originated almost by accident during the 1800’s when the search for synthetic dyes for the textile industry led to the discovery of various compounds in coal tar. Some of those compounds became the earliest antibacterial sulfa drugs.

During the 1800’s, pharmacists specialized in creating extracts and making crude drugs like opium from natural products like plants. Eventually they isolated and refined the active ingredients like morphine in crude drugs and the modern pharmaceutical industry was born.

Up until the early 1950’s most prescriptions were compounded or mixed from basic chemical ingredients by pharmacists. Then, the large pharmaceutical companies took over and started to manufacture most of the medicines dispensed by pharmacists. Community pharmacists with compounding experience are now a lot less common than they once were.

Why Compound?

There are many situations when a custom compound is either preferable to a mass produced product or there is no other option:

  • A patient can’t swallow pills so a pharmacist compounds a liquid alternative.
  • A child requires a small dose of a drug that is only made in adult doses so a pharmacist compounds a child safe version.
  • A patient is allergic to some ingredients or glutens found in medicines so a pharmacist compounds an alternative that doesn’t contain the unwanted ingredient.
  • A drug that a patient needs is no longer available from the pharmaceutical companies.
  • There’s a shortage of a drug so a pharmacist compounds an alternative.

Medicine Shoppe Crowfoot is a compounding pharmacy. If you have special pharmaceutical needs, visit or call them today.

Written by Randy Howden. Visit me on

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