Q: What is a compounding pharmacy?
In recent months, compounding pharmacies have gotten a lot of press because of the fungal meningitis outbreak caused by New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. They are not a new thing—in fact, all pharmacies were compounding pharmacies until the 20th century. A compounding pharmacy combines ingredients to create a personalized treatment for a patient. Such personalized service is not as common today with the mass production and distribution of medications, but it does still exist.
Today, compounding pharmacies are used when a doctor needs a very specific medication for a patient. This could happen if the patient needed a strength or form of a drug that is not commercially produced. With the increase in certain allergies, doctors also need to be aware if a medication a patient requires contains something they are allergic to—a compounding pharmacy can produce a version of the drug that the patient is not allergic to. Compounding pharmacies can also be quite helpful in situations where a patient can only take the drug in a certain form that is not offered commercially—if they can't swallow pills and require a liquid form, for example.
Since compounding pharmacies distribute their product based on the one doctor's prescription for an individual patient, what was New England Compounding Center doing? They shipped more than 17,000 vials of a steroid to pain clinics in 23 states. In fact, in 2006, they received a warning letter from the FDA charging that they were acting more like a drug manufacturing firm than a compounding pharmacy. The center was clearly violating the requirements of their license when they chose to send out the ill-fated shipments of the fungal meningitis-laced medication.
If you were a victim of New England Compounding Center, contact Girards Law for a free consultation at 888-897-2762.