Compounding Pharmacy History
Compounding was practiced by every pharmacy until the late 1950’s. Before the advent of the pre-made drugs a pharmacist wouldn’t be worth much if he didn’t know how to compound. Doctors would write a prescription for a medication that needed to be made from scratch. The pharmacist needed to know how to compound these chemicals and extracts into various dosage forms like capsules, tablets and suspensions.
Common compounds were made from crude drugs like opium, foxglove, chrysanthemum or Nux Vomica. The pharmacist needed to know how to calculate the activity of these crude drugs prior to compounding. Foxglove’s activity was determined by finding how much was needed to kill a cat. Chrysanthemum’s activity was found by seeing how many flies were killed over a period of time by being exposed to the extract. Once the activity was established the medication would be compounded into a form the doctor prescribed often tinctures.
During the 1800’s doctors and pharmacists wrote books that specified the requirements for crude drugs to meet. These books were called dispensatories, formularies and pharmacopoeias. These publications described the qualities of various crude drugs that needed to be met like proper harvesting, drying and storage conditions. This area of study became known as pharmacognosy and was taught in every pharmacy college until the early 1960’s.
In the early 1900’s the active chemicals were isolated from the various natural crude drug sources. The pharmacist would purchase these chemicals to compound their prescriptions instead of making them. Various companies like “Lehn & Fink Wholesale Druggists and Manufacturing Chemists of New York” sold the standardized extracts of the crude drugs. Other companies like Merck sold pure chemicals and Eli Lilly sold crude drugs. These companies later became the manufacturers of the drugs like Zocor and Prozac that people are so familiar with.
With time the compounding pharmacy became a dispenser of finished dosage forms commonly seen dispensed by every pharmacist. Dispensing finished dosage forms made it less work for the pharmacist but with that the traditional compounding pharmacy became a thing of the past. Some pharmacists kept compounding alive and currently there are many more compounding pharmacies and pharmacists practicing the traditional art of the apothecary.