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Ernest P. Gates Jr. is the president of Gates Healthcare Associates (www.gatesconsult.com), a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical and healthcare consulting firm.
Four steps that compounding pharmacists must take to restore their credibility.
Compounding pharmacists too often suffer from the “woe is me” affliction. They feel victimized by the acts of a rogue few, pushed down by the heavy thumb of regulation and often forgotten by other sectors of the health profession. Yet, they are vital to so many patients who depend on them for medications that are not commercially available.
It has been a long road. The New England Compounding Center (NECC) tragedy--where a company that was willfully ignoring proper compounding procedures prepared and distributed toxic injectable medications that killed 64 and injured 753--became a black mark for our profession.
In its wake, there were criminal investigations into enterprises that compounded pain creams for veterans and others and that charged tens of thousands of dollars for products that cost a fraction of that.
The NECC tragedy led to increased regulation and oversight–a good thing but challenging, nonetheless, for independent compounding pharmacies–and the pain cream scandal led health plans and Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to reduce or eliminate coverage of compounded medications.
For the profession, it must close this chapter and invest all of its energy in building a reinvigorated compounding pharmacy industry. It is high time for compounding pharmacists to lift their heads, throw their shoulders back and become leaders, rather than overburdened professionals continually reacting to circumstances around them.
Here are four steps the profession and those in it can take to do just that.
It’s important for compounding pharmacists to be really good at what they do and to be a resource for their communities, but at the same time to understand and internalize their limits. Accidents can happen when any professional exceeds their scope of practice and such episodes keep the profession down.
The steps outlined above, which will restore the profession’s credibility, will not be easy for compounders to follow nor will they be inexpensive. It is the difficult changes that are always most impactful.
The vast majority of compounding pharmacists are excellent practitioners who physicians and patients rely upon. The profession should not be judged by a minute percentage of bad actors.
It is time for our profession to shine at what we do best, to broadly adopt best practices and to do not just what is expected of us, but what is not.