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The Troubling Rise of “Compound Pharmacies”

A new class of pharmacy, in which drugs are mixed for individual patients, lacks regulation, says the FDA. The practice is a result of higher drug prices and the allure of "personalized medicine."

What’s the Latest Development?


The once-quaint image of a 1950s pharmacy mixing together different drugs for its customers has returned to many American cities, sometimes with lethal consequences. As a result of a mixture created by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, 198 illnesses and 15 deaths have been reported from 13 states. Critics say the problem results from lax regulations. Currently, the FDA rejects the idea that the voluntary accreditation board established to check the safety of compounding pharmacies, called the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board, can effectively guarantee patient health. 

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What’s the Big Idea?

Accrediting organizations have always played an important role in the nation’s health care system. Hospitals regularly submit to inspections by independent groups to ensure eligibility for Medicare payments but pharmacies and pharmacists follow a different set of rules. The rise of compound pharmacies is viewed by medical professionals to be a result of greater out-of-hospital care, high drug prices, drug shortages and the allure of “personalized medicine.” Thus far, the FDA has only been able to sending warning letters to pharmacies who inadvertently create lethal compounds. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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