Questions to ask your pharmacist

Q: What are your credentials for preparing compounds for use in animals?

A: Pharmacy undergraduate education offers varying degrees of compounding instruction, and training in veterinary pharmacotherapy may be limited. Postgraduate pharmacy training can include continuing education certificates and membership in veterinary pharmacy professional organizations. Consider whether the pharmacy is compliant with United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards, such as General Chapters <795> and <797> for non-sterile and sterile compounding for both humans and animals.

Q: Are you licensed as a pharmacy in my state? Is the pharmacy accredited by an independent body?

A: Most state Boards of Pharmacy require that an out-of-state pharmacy register with their state prior to filling prescriptions to be mailed into their state. Veterinarians can inquire with their state board of pharmacy to ascertain the status of a pharmacy’s license and to gain valuable information including the pharmacy permit number. Also, consider whether the pharmacy is certified by an independent body. Examples include the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Vet-VIPPS and the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board.

Q: What sources will you use for the components and formula for the compound I am prescribing?

A: FDA-approved products should be used to make compounded preparations. In cases where no approved drug or combination of approved drugs can adequately address a specific patient’s need, veterinarians and pharmacists must carefully assess whether the use of an unapproved substance in a compounded veterinary drug is consistent with state and federal law and FDA policy. If medical necessity dictates that a bulk active ingredient be used in the formulation, the pharmacist should ensure the integrity of all components used (e.g. certificates of analysis, USP National Formulary grade substance, or obtained from an FDA-registered supplier.) The pharmacist can also identify the company from which products are purchased, as well as the domestic or international location of the company. Formulas used for compounding should be obtained from a peer-reviewed source (e.g. published studies in primary literature, textbooks, or the USP) when possible.

Q: What assurances can be offered regarding the quality and stability of the preparation?

A: There are both benefits and risks associated with compounded preparations used in animals. While they may be useful when medically necessary, the reality is that no assurances can be given without sufficient scientific data backing the preparation method of each active ingredient.  However, some assurances of the quality of active ingredients and preparation methods can be offered by the pharmacy to help mitigate certain risks that are also associated with compounding such as poor quality ingredients, or unstable preparations.

Q: How do I know that the compounded preparations such as drug delivery systems or drug combinations will be safe and effective?

A: You don’t. There is no assurance, like there is with an FDA-approved drug, that a compounded preparation will be safe or effective for the condition you are treating. Extensive laboratory and clinical studies are needed to assure that these preparations achieve adequate blood and tissue levels on a consistent basis from batch to batch as well as being safe to the animal. Sponsors of FDA-approved products must conduct in vivo pre-market testing. Veterinarians should seek results from scientifically designed studies demonstrating the efficacy and safety of a particular preparation, including drug delivery systems in the target species. These study results showing suitable stability, relative efficacy, and safety in the target species can be considered in the benefit/risk analysis a veterinarian performs, when deciding whether to use the particular preparation in the patient.

Q: What data or other sources will you use for the assigned beyond-use date for the compound I am prescribing?

A: Veterinarians should inquire as to how the beyond-use-date was established. Beyond-use-dates and expiration dates are not the same. Expiration dates for the chemical and physical stability of manufactured products are determined from results of rigorous analytical and performance testing, and they are specific for a particular formulation in its container and at stated exposure conditions. According to the USP (e.g. General Chapters <795> and <797>) the compounding pharmacist is responsible for setting the beyond-use-date within the conservative default parameters established by USP.

Q: Will you prepare a compound specifically for my patient, or is it prepared in advance?

A: Pharmacies should compound medications pursuant to the receipt of a valid prescription.

Q: How would I report an adverse event that I think is associated with use of a compounded preparation?

A: Veterinarians should report suspected adverse events or product failures involving compounded preparations to the compounding pharmacist, the State Board of Pharmacy and the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. Instructions for reporting adverse events to FDA can be found at the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ReportaProblem/ucm055305.htm . Pharmacists should instruct pet owners to contact both the prescribing veterinarian and pharmacist immediately if a compounded preparation has caused an adverse event.

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