Prescriptions used to be filled by mixing and measuring. Compounding is how pharmacy got its start, making medicine from scratch.
"Your local hometown pharmacist was actually preparing a lot of the medications that the physician had ordered," said Marquette pharmacist, Kent Jenema.
But as big drug companies grew, the need for compounding shrank. In the 1930s, the FDA put stringent regulations on large manufacturers, standardizing drugs the way we know them today.
But compounding is making a comeback. As our knowledge of medicine grows, we are finding new, unique forms of treatment that can be explored by mixing.
"In medicine we continue to find new ways to treat new situations, new ways to treat symptoms, to provide symptom management, and because the drug companies are so large, they're not going to spend the money to market and produce certain dosage forms, certain unique preparation for a very small population," Jenema said.
Compounding has become particularly useful in pediatrics, hospice and dermatology, where unique dosage forms and applications are needed. Pharmacists can change the way a drug is taken; topically instead of orally, or make it taste better with flavoring.
"There are situations where I can add something to a reputable prescribed drug that will help enhance it," said Marquette dermatologist, Dr. Milton Soderberg. "We feel we can enhance the value and the benefit of the topical preparation by putting several things together."
Compounding can be more costly because it takes special preparation from the pharmacist, but for many, that special touch is worth every penny.