Compounding pharmacies shine during drug shortages

Ever-growing drug shortages are helping compounding pharmacies emerge from the shadows of drugmakers. Meet Mark Jurovich, a prescient pharmacist and co-owner of Juro's Home Medical-Pharmacy in Billings, MT. Juro's can compound most drugs formulated as gels, creams, capsules, suppositories and lozenges--even flavored lollipops.

Compounding was in the news last March during an oral-suspension Tamiflu shortage. Pharmacists were directed by Genentech to open Tamiflu capsules--which were plentiful--and mix the contents with sweetened liquids for a substitute. Problem averted.

Juro's has been in the compounding business for more than a decade, and its pharmacists have been trained by the Professional Compounding Centers of America, according to the Billings Gazette. And training is important. "For some drugs in short supply you might be able to go to a compounding pharmacy," says Erin Fox, who manages the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics, in an interview. "But you want to make sure it's safe. In 2001, people died from a poorly made steroid."

The compounding service represents a niche that distinguishes Juro's from the large retail pharmacies, and it may be becoming a strategic competitive weapon. "At times we've been very busy trying to fill the need created by the drug shortage," Jurovich says in the article. He claimed his drugs are economical because he doesn't have to mark up his finished drug prices to the same levels as the pharmacy chains.

He adds that most insurance companies cover compounded drugs. And in some cases, customers are happier with the specialized formulation than a mass-produced drug.

Juro's began with a small compounding lab in the store that expanded as demand grew. Bar-coded ingredients are scanned and weighed; pharmacists follow formulation instructions using the same drug. "We work to create an equivalent substitution," Jurovich explains.

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