Compounding Pharmacies – A Vet’s Perspective

Even as a vet, when I first came across the concept of a ‘compounding pharmacy’, such as Bova Compounding, it was as foreign to me as a cat that enjoys a good bath! But once I learnt more about compounding pharmacies, and started to use them more frequently in practice, the more I realised just how useful they are in the veterinary industry!

As a committed pet owner, I’m sure you can fully understand the frustration at dividing up a pill a zillion times to get to the ‘correct’ dose, only to find that you are left with a small pile of powder which would make any self-respecting police dog look sideways, and leaving you questioning the accuracy of your dose!

And most feline fanatics who have ever owned a cat with a true ‘strong willed’ personality will have certainly fought their way through a week of domestic violence, as they tried, usually unsuccessfully, to jam big foul tasting tablets down their cat’s throats twice a day for a week.

So you ask the questions?

“Why don’t pharmacies make medication at doses and in formulations more appropriate for dogs and cats?”

“Why aren’t pet medications more palatable for animals?

 The answer to these questions effectively comes down to business, or more precisely supply and demand.

The first thing you need to remember is that vets will prescribe and dispense ‘animal only’ AND ‘human’ medications, depending upon availability and what’s required. A lot of diseases we treat in veterinary science are treated with medication developed and manufactured to be used on people. Hence, the dose is commonly huge, and we end up chopping up pills left, right and centre.

The second issue is specific to supply and demand in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry. Large pharmaceutical companies will produce various medications at specific doses and forms (ie capsules vs tablets vs paste) according to demand. Researching, developing and manufacturing drugs is an expensive process, and if drug companies didn’t adopt this model, then it would be a pretty unsuccessful business!

 So, it’s not unusual for vets to find themselves requiring drugs and medications at specific doses, in specific formulations, and ideally with specific palatabilities which are simply not manufactured by the larger pharmaceutical companies.

 “So how are compounding pharmacies fixing these problems?”

The terms that comes to mind when discussing compounding pharmacies is flexibility. These pharmacies, such as Bova Compounding, have the flexibility to compound drugs to specific doses, and formulations (capsules, tablets, pastes) depending upon the requirement. Since compounding pharmacies have all the equipment, ingredients and staff in house, they are able to compound most medications as requested at specific doses, formulations and palatabilities to fill any holes in the market. And often it actually ends up being cheaper for you in the long run.

Listed below are a few scenarios to explain the concept a little more:

  1. Let’s say you have a cat that requires medication at a very small dosage, and in a topical cream, and the only available medication is a pill designed to treat people. Compounding pharmacies have the flexibility to compound that drug as a small dosage cream to the exact specifications of the original medication. Suddenly we are in a situation where we can comfortably and reliably treat our cat!

Your vet has just prescribed your Chihuahua ‘Frankie’ with medication to be given daily for life, and the medication is solely manufactured for people, and very expensive! Compounding pharmacies have the flexibility to compound the same drug, at a more appropriate dose, and at a larger volume. The end result – More appropriate medication at a significantly reduced price.

And one more scenario for the pony club. Simply put – your vet has diagnosed a condition requiring a medication only available as a pill! Your compounding pharmacy may be able to make that medication into a paste, and add flavours to the medication to make it palatable and yummy for your horse.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what a compound pharmacy can do for you and your pet with respect to cost, convenience and comfort.