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Compounding pharmacies could put your health at risk

Many commercial prescriptions are standard. But they don't necessarily suit all patients' needs. You may have difficulty swallowing, making medications in tablet form not an option for you. Or perhaps you have an intolerance for the standard dosage of a commercial medication and require a smaller amount.

In cases like these, doctors rely on compounding pharmacies to help. Unlike commercial pharmacies, compounding pharmacies are designed to produce tailor-made medication in small batches on an as-needed basis. While this may seem like a good solution, there are some serious drawbacks in how such pharmacies operate.

Lack of regulation

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely oversees commercial pharmacies, helping to ensure that drugs are manufactured safely. However, the FDA has no oversight over compounding pharmacies. Instead, oversight is left to each state's pharmacy board inspectors. The problem is there are too few inspectors to go around - leaving many pharmacies free to operate how they want. This has led to dangerous production practices that compromise the health and safety of unsuspecting consumers.

Careless endangerment

Numerous investigations of compounding pharmacies have uncovered unsafe and unsanitary practices. One compounding pharmacy in Connecticut produced steroid injections for the spine. The vials of serum contained bacteria that were visible to the human eye. The medication was distributed anyway, resulting in a meningitis outbreak that killed more than 100 unsuspecting patients.

Unsanitary storage practices have been another widespread issue uncovered in compounding pharmacies. In one pharmacy, loose tablets were kept in an open box in the employee bathroom, next to the toilet.

Recently, a compounding pharmacy in Texas was cited for adding dangerous ingredients (formaldehyde and acetone) into eye injection medication. This caused total or partial blindness in nearly 70 patients. In addition, because compounding pharmacies are not required to report their issues to regulators, it took the state six months to discover the problem.

Options for victims

Compounding pharmacies are under far less scrutiny than commercial pharmacies. As a consumer, you may not even realize that your prescription drugs come from a compounding pharmacy.

The simple act of purchasing a prescription drug shouldn't put your health at risk. If you have suffered from a defective drug, you have legal recourse. A product liability attorney can help you to hold the negligent manufacturer accountable - and get you compensation for your unfair suffering.

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