The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had negative effects on the resources and institutions of society in almost every country. At the height of the infection surges, the most common problem was the depletion of much-needed medicines. Pharmacies often ran out of stock of life-saving medications.
With a little bit of resourcefulness, pharmacies could innovate by compounding medicines, especially for essential medications when stocks are low. At the height of the pandemic, for instance, one company addressed the heightened demand for intravenous (IV bags). You can find content on this topic online.
Here are a few possible opportunities and challenges for pharmacy compounding while the pandemic is ongoing:
1. Serve Custom Doses
There are instances when certain medicines should be given and administered only in specified amounts. These doses are often written in prescriptions. Patients have to follow these prescriptions. And, sometimes, the meds aren’t available in the right doses when patients go to the pharmacy.
With the ongoing pandemic, it’s become more difficult to find the medicine you need. At the height of the lockdowns, people were literally scrambling for medicines when they needed them. Even when cities started to reopen, people were often turned away by pharmacies because the ones they needed were out of stock.
This is an opportunity for pharmacy compounding to address these concerns and fill these gaps. With most hospitals flooded by critical cases, and people running everywhere looking for all sorts of meds, compounding pharmacy can come up with the much-needed medicines in the right number of doses through custom prescriptions.
The challenge here is how to control the compounding of medicines, and make sure that it’s not abused. If pharmacies are permitted to come up with their own formulations in the guise of packaging or alternative taste or flavoring, things can get out of hand. Such discretion on what doses to give can be prone to abuse. Even big pharma products, such as vaccines, can cause death on rare occasions because medical science is never a hundred percent sure.
The solution by most compounding companies to the challenge of tracking any potential abuse is to improve their quality control measures. In compounding pharmacies, quality control is highly important in maintaining internal processes that’d verify and test the quality of products against acceptable standards before the medications can be released to the buying public. They follow stringent standards on inspecting which raw materials to use, approving which batches to release or reject, and knowing a medicine’s shelf life.
2. Make Cheaper Medicines
Compounded medicines are usually less expensive to produce compared to drugs manufactured for commercial distribution and sale. One of the reasons why compounding medicines are cheaper is that compounding pharmacies have access to medical-grade chemicals. They’re able to buy these in large quantities at very low prices, enabling them to make low-cost medicines.
The other reason is that compounding pharmacies don’t have to use designer dyes or preservatives. These components are usually produced by large pharmaceutical companies that have patents over their use. Since they won’t be using these patented or licensed chemical components, compounding pharmacies can save a lot of money.
They’re able to translate these savings into cheaper drug prices. This could also pose a challenge later on if there’s no way to track what brands of chemicals are used by pharmacies to compound their medicines. Unscrupulous profiteers might abuse compounding medicines. They might tamper with the materials used, which could have disastrous consequences on people who rely on medicines to cure their illnesses.
3. Leverage Telemedicine
Another aspect of healthcare where compounding pharmacies can come in and contribute positively is in the interface with patients and customers, and how service is delivered. In recent years, telemedicine and telehealth have been gaining traction and support among the end-user clients of healthcare services. People are realizing the convenience of being able to ask someone about their health concerns and issues just by dialing a number or sending a chat message.
Compounding medicines can benefit a lot from the growing acceptance and use of telemedicine and telehealth services. Since an essential part of compounding pharmacies is the prescription by a doctor of a custom or unique dosage or medication for the client, this perfectly fits into the telemedicine processes. Patients or customers don’t have to go to their doctor or physician in person just to ask for a prescription. They can simply pick up the phone and dial telemedicine.
With the continuing need for social distancing brought about by the ongoing pandemic, more industries have experienced a growing demand for various services delivered via teledistance platforms. Backroom offices can take calls from end-user patients and clients. They can ask the basic questions to sort the callers before they farm out the calls to on-demand physicians and doctors. The doctors can then issue the prescriptions for compounding medicines. The prescriptions can be sent to the patients or to the pharmacies.
The challenge here is, again, the potential for errors or abuse. Since doctors won’t be able to see and examine their telemedicine patients in person, this might affect their ability to get a clear and complete clinical picture of the patients’ conditions. There’s also the potential for abuse if people who aren’t really sick will call in and ask for prescriptions.
Don’t Mix Up Your Doses
Compounding pharmacies are promising innovative solutions to the problems and gaps in healthcare, which have been exposed wide open by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There are opportunities to take advantage of compounding pharmacies in terms of making much-needed medicines when commercial supplies go low, bringing down the cost of medicines, and making use of business process outsourcing (BPO) practices to deliver services. Yet, there are also risks, such as the potential for abuse and risk of errors in preparation.