Compounding pharmacy is a practice in pharmacy that specializes in creating drugs by mixing various ingredients. It has been the dominant way of creating medicines for hundreds of years and was only replaced by mass-produced drugs 50 years ago when 60% of all medications were produced by compounding pharmacists. Today, barely 1% of all drugs prescribed to patients are compounded. However, the number of compounding pharmacies has been undergoing resurgence recently.

History of Compounding Pharmacy
For the most parts of history, drugs were produced from scratch. This had been the exclusive way of producing medications since the times before alchemy developed in Europe and medieval times in the Islamic world until the 1950s when mass produced drugs became more common.

This old fashioned way of creating medicines stemmed from ancient traditions beginning from hunter-gatherer societies. They put their basic knowledge of the medicinal properties of the things they found within their environment to create substances that heal, and in many cases poisons that aided them to hunt more effectively. This tradition was then passed on to the succeeding civilizations which enabled them to create incense, perfumes, preservatives, cosmetics and to produce ceremonial substances for anointing the dead and the living. Their knowledge of producing these substances later evolved to a more philosophical and pseudo-spiritual science of alchemy which vaulted the science of pharmacy to far greater lengths.

Then began the age of modern compounding pharmacy. This period, from early 19th century to mid 20th century, paved the way for the isolation of various compounds from different substances, allowing pharmacists to create plastic and the very first sulfonamide from where numerous groups of drugs evolved from. This is also the period when crude drugs (e.g. opium) were first extracted from natural resources. It only took a while until modern pharmaceutical companies emerged to dispense highly regulated drugs that provide treatment for a wider range of patients.

Today, compounding pharmacists still supply customized drugs to patients whose needs are not met by commercially available drugs. However, they compose only the minority. Things are expected to change though as movements to provide tailored medications to patients with unusual needs veer towards compounding pharmacy.

Compounding Pharmacy Today
Although compounding pharmacy is yet to find its proper place again in the modern science of pharmacy, it still plays a central role in drug testing and development. Compounding pharmacists are currently the developers and testers of new pharmaceutical formulations to ensure the safety, efficacy, and acceptability of drugs to patients. They are typical commissioned by pharmaceutical companies to innovate drugs or by physicians who need to have commercially available drugs recreated.

On top of these, compounding pharmacies are the only sources of unique drug preparations that are needed by patients with special pharmaceutical needs. When a patient's treatment depends on a change of dosage, requires different drug formulation and alternative mode of administration, needs a drug that was continued years ago, the only ones who can truly provide special formulations are the compounding pharmacies. Compounding pharmacies are also called on to provide medications for patients who have sensitivities to available drugs and for those who need alternative flavors.

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