The Difference Between a General Pharmacy and a Compounding Pharmacy 


General Pharmacy Versus Compounding Pharmacy Services

Pharmacies are an essential part of the average person’s daily life. At the same time, too many patients remain unaware of the different kinds of pharmacies out there and the variety of services we can provide. Unless you take some type of specialized medication, the concept of a compounding pharmacy might be on the more unfamiliar side of things to you. Compounding pharmacies are different from your average general pharmacies, in that they can provide a multitude of specialized services for you and your pharmaceutical needs.

Compounding pharmacies, like ours here at the Compounding Pharmacy of America, specialize in creating custom forms of prescription medication to fit your individual needs. Every person is unique, and so is their ailment. So it only makes sense that their medication is unique too. From changing prescriptions into liquid forms for children or adjusting doses of acetaminophen for headaches, compounding pharmacies provide a great deal of services that can help formulate a unique medication to fit your individualized needs.

What Does a Pharmacy Do?

Many people might be familiar with the common services that their general pharmacy provides but not in great detail. Both general pharmacies and compounding pharmacies prepare prescription medications for their clients, but general pharmacies focus more on preparing commercial medications and standardized dosages for each of them. Your general pharmacy is a great option when you’re in need of a quick fix such as pain relief medication for a sprained ankle or over-the-counter cold and flu relief. A general pharmacy offers over-the-counter solutions as well as standardized prescription medications and dosages for the more general needs of patients.

What Does a Compounding Pharmacy Do?

A compounding pharmacy, on the other hand, specializes in general compounding as well as creating custom medication for you and your specific needs. Compounding allows a pharmacist or doctor to mix (or even alter) the drugs in question in order to create a treatment that best fits the patient filling their prescription. A compound pharmacy is a great option when you struggle with migraines or chronic pain and need a custom dosage of Ibuprofen, or if you decide that your pain relief medication might work better if it is a topical cream. Compounding pharmacies provide a wide variety of different, specialized services that help to ensure a patient is getting the treatment they need.

What Is General Compounding?

What Is General Compounding?

The process of general compounding is when a licensed professional combines, alters, or mixes ingredients of a drug to create a specialized medication that can help a patient’s individualized needs. Compounding can involve a variety of different tasks that a pharmacist performs in order to create a medication to suit their patient. Compounding can include changing the form of the medication, altering the dose of it, and more.

Differences Between Compounding and General Pharmacies

When it comes to specialized medications, going to a compounding pharmacy is the best option so your individual needs can be met. The main difference between general pharmacies and compounding pharmacies is that compounding pharmacies can perform customized services for your prescription medications, while general pharmacies can’t.

Here are just a few of the specialized services that compounding pharmacies offer that general pharmacies do not:

1. Custom Dosages

One amazing benefit of choosing a compounding pharmacy over a general pharmacy is that you can order a custom dose of the medication in question. While general pharmacies offer a variety of different standardized doses, compounding pharmacies are able to create custom dosages that will fit their patient’s specific needs, rather than them trying to decide what standardized dose they should settle for. Many medications, such as anti-anxiety pills, for example, jump dosages from 75mg to 150mg. For many, a dosage that lies between those standardized ones may be more appropriate. Ultimately, custom dosages can be extremely helpful in multiple cases of prescriptions—especially for those who deal with chronic pain conditions too.

2. Changing Form of Medications

Another big difference between your general pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy is that at a compounding pharmacy, your pharmacists can alter the form of your prescription medication. Many people think that their medication can only come in the common form it’s provided in, but at compounding pharmacies, we can change that for you. For example, say you have pain relief medication for your back that you would rather apply topically. A compounding pharmacy can take your prescription and change it into a topical cream for you so that you can apply it externally on your back instead. Being able to choose the form of your medication can be extremely beneficial in so many different ways, and it can help ensure that you are getting treatment that works for you.

Some of the different forms that a compounding pharmacy can alter your prescription medication into include:

  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Tablet
  • Cream
  • Ointment

3. Children’s Medication

Trying to give your child medication can be tough at times, especially when it is one they might need to take regularly. Luckily, another great service that compounding pharmacies offer includes the creation and alteration of medications for children. Their prescription can, for example, be made into a powder for you to easily mix in with food or drinks, or even a topical cream to apply externally on your toddler instead. Here at the Compounding Pharmacy of America, we even offer different flavorings for oral medication so that your child actually wants to take their medicine instead of fighting against it.

4. Combining Medications

Compounding pharmacies are also able to combine medications for patients if needed. Many people take multiple different medications every day, and (if safe) licensed doctors and pharmacists at your compounding pharmacy may be able to combine your medications into one capsule, making taking your prescription every day that much easier.

5. Unavailable Medication Services

Another specialty that compounding pharmacies can perform is the creation of unavailable or discontinued medications. Oftentimes a general pharmacy can stop offering a specific commercial medication or it may even be discontinued. When this happens, it’s important that the patient is still receiving the treatment that they require. Going to an experienced compounding pharmacy can ensure that you still receive the medication you’re used to, even if your local pharmacy discontinued it.

Common Reasons to Use Compounded Medications

Common Reasons to Use Compounded Medications

There are many different reasons that a person may choose to get their medication customized at a compounding pharmacy.

Here are a few of the most common reasons that people use compounded medications:

1. Pain Management

Customized pain management medication is one of the most common reasons people seek to have their medications compounded. For those who deal with chronic pain, finding a medication that works can be incredibly hard. On top of that, there is always the worry that you may find a pain medication that works but is also addictive. That’s another reason people go to compounding pharmacies for their pain medication, so that they can create a form of treatment that is safe and effective.

2. Skin Problems

Skin problems and irritations are another popular reason that people seek help from compounding pharmacies. Everyone’s skin is different, so not all skincare products will work the same on them. That’s why so many people end up going to a compounding pharmacy where they can have their own acne or skin medication created in order to achieve the best results for healthy skin.

3. Thyroid Issues

Another common reason that people seek help from compounding pharmacies is for thyroid issues. Thyroid issues are unique to each individual dealing with them and can oftentimes require a specialized medication for each case. Compounding pharmacies have plenty of experience altering and combining medications to help those with thyroid issues find medication that works for them.

4. Hormone Optimization

Hormonal imbalances are quite common and can easily be treated with specialized prescription medication created by a compounding pharmacy. Having unbalanced hormones can affect your every-day life greatly and make simple things much harder. That’s why making sure that your hormonal levels are balanced is essential to a healthy, working mind and body. Hormone optimization to help readjust and balance out your levels is another common reason that people seek compounding pharmacies.

5. Children and Pets

Customized medications for children and pets are another extremely common reason that people use compounding pharmacies. Because compounding pharmacies specialize in altering medications, they are extremely helpful for pet owners whose animals require specific treatments that general pharmacies might not offer. Because every animal is different, the dosage of their medicine and the medicine that is used will most likely vary. Many times, a medication needs to be combined or altered to best suit the animal’s needs.

The same goes for children. Compounding Pharmacies’ ability to create specialized medication makes it much easier to find a form of a treatment that your child will actually take. Trying to give your child medication can be difficult and going to a compounding pharmacy where they can alter the form of your medication can make the process much easier on both of you.

Deciding Between a General Pharmacy and a Compounding Pharmacy

When it comes to choosing between a general pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy for your medical needs, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Your general pharmacy will be your best option for quicker, short-term solutions such as over-the-counter pain relievers, cold and flu medications, and more.

For more specific, not-so-easy to fix issues, you will most likely need to go to a compounding pharmacy. When you need a specific dose of a medication, you need a medication altered, or you need any sort of specialized medication or treatment; that’s when a compounding pharmacy will be your best option. A compounding pharmacy can help you with any specialized needs you may have to ensure you get a medication that works for you.

Choosing a Compounding Pharmacy to Help Meet Your Needs

Choosing a Compounding Pharmacy to Help Meet Your Needs

Ultimately, the main difference between a general pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy is that a general pharmacy has more broad, commercial medications and standardized dosages, while a compounding pharmacy can create medications with unique dosages and ingredients to best suit you and the unique needs of your family.

A compounding pharmacy can formulate specialized medications—in a variety of different forms and dosages—so that you can get treatment that works for you. From adjusting dosages to combining medications, Compounding Pharmacy of America understands just how crucial it is to have medication that suits your individualized needs.

About Matt Poteet, Pharm.D.

Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding. He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Read More About Matthew Poteet, PharmD