FAQs

Compounding is a central activity to the practice of pharmacy. Pharmacists are taught in pharmacy school how to properly compound medications, and many states test their compounding knowledge and skills before issuing licenses.

Pharmacists who practice in the 7,500 pharmacies that specialize in compounding services have generally had advanced training in compounding after they graduated from pharmacy school. No state currently requires a particular type of training, and no nationally recognized specialty exists for pharmaceutical compounding.

Ask. A patient can receive compounded drugs from a typical community pharmacy or a specialty compounding pharmacy, or compounded drugs can be administered by doctors or other health professionals in clinics or medical offices. Patients can ask the person administering a medication or the pharmacist dispensing a prescription whether it was prepared in a compounding pharmacy or manufactured by a drug company.

If a prescription calls for a compounded drug, patients can ask whether the compounding pharmacy is accredited. Lists of accredited compounding pharmacy are organized by state on PCAB’s website.

While all pharmacies do some types of compounding, this is more common or the primary focus of a small portion of American pharmacies. The preparations  offered by these compounding pharmacies can be nonsterile (ointments, creams, liquids, or capsules that are used in areas of the body where absolute sterility is not necessary) or sterile (usually intended for injection into body tissues or the blood).

All licensed pharmacists learn during their four years of pharmacy school to perform basic compounding. In addition, all pharmacies have compounding tools such as a mortar and pestle for grinding materials, graduated cylinders for measuring liquids, scales for weighing solids, spatulas for mixing materials, and pill tiles on which to work. With such tools and applying their knowledge, all pharmacists routinely prepare nonsterile compounded products when requested by physicians.

Of the approximately 56,000 community-based pharmacies in the United States, about 7,500 pharmacies specialize in compounding services. This means the pharmacists in those facilities spend most or all of their time compounding special preparations  for patients. Preparations in these pharmacies are more likely to be both sterile and nonsterile. Compounding also takes place in hospital pharmacies and at other health care facilities.

Compounding is the preparation of an individual drug to meet the prescriber’s exact specifications and to be dispensed directly to the patient or the prescriber. Pharmaceutical compounding is performed or supervised by a pharmacist licensed by a state board of pharmacy. Compounded drugs are not for resale by the patient or prescriber.

Manufacturing is the mass production of drug products that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are sold to pharmacies, health care practitioners or others authorized under state and federal law to resell them.