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The Promise and Perils of Pharmacy Compounding Rebecca J. Anderson, PhD

On September 18, 2012, April Pettit, an internist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, sent an email to the Tennessee Department of Health, describing a patient with a rare form of meningitis (1). The patient had contracted a fungal infection after receiving a contaminated epidural injection for back pain. The contaminated product was a steroid solution made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. Soon, other meningitis cases emerged, leading to what one lawyer called “the deadliest catastrophe in the history of modern medicine” (2).

Compounding through the Ages Compounding is a pharmacy term that describes the process of combining ingredients to produce a medication tailored to meet the needs of an individual patient. It is a practice that dates back thousands of years. The earliest descriptions of compounded medicines are contained in the cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia (3). The ingredients in these ancient prescriptions, which were written in 2600 BC, included about 1,000 plant-derived compounds (4). Traditional Chinese medicine began even earlier, but the first text was the Huang Ti Nei Ching (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), which was written around 300 BC. The Nei Ching documented medicinal preparations that had been in use since 2600 BC and encompassed diet and acupuncture as well as drugs (3, 4).

Reprinted from The Pharmacologist • June 2017

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2018 Special Compilation Issue of The Pharmacologist  

ASPET is pleased to present the second in a series of special editions of our quarterly news magazine, The Pharmacologist. This special com...

2018 Special Compilation Issue of The Pharmacologist  

ASPET is pleased to present the second in a series of special editions of our quarterly news magazine, The Pharmacologist. This special com...