Health professionals are compounding when they prepare a customised medicine for a specific patient’s prescription. It may be as simple as crushing a pill and mixing it with liquid, or involve sophisticated scientific operations, such as preparing sterile medicines.

There is a need for compounding in instances where medication for a certain condition is not available or a patient needs a customized version. If a medicine contains an ingredient which is not the active ingredient, to which a patient is allergic, the pharmacist may compound a version of the medicine without the ingredient. Some examples include dye for colouring, and lactose, used as a filler in many medicines.

When a commercial product is not suitable for children’s doses or for those who cannot swallow pills or tablets, compounding is an alternative. Compounders can flavour medicines for children, who do not like the taste.

Compounding is regulated, as there are ingredients which do not lend themselves to compounding. A commercially manufactured medicine is always preferable to compounded medicine, as it has been tested according to legislation, and there is a higher degree of control in the manufacturing environment. Whenever a medicine is changed in some way, there is the potential for reactions between ingredients or other problems. You could end up with a medicine that is less effective, or could potentially be harmful.

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The medical professional needs to weigh up the risks of compounded medicine versus the benefits for the individual patient’s needs.