Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Easier Way to Take Your Medicine

by LittleMan
Taking medications can be a big part of managing your chronic illnesses.  In fact, for some illnesses, medications are the only treatment option.

In addition, many of us are very sensitive when it comes to medications.  Starting off with a regular dose of any drug can mean big side effects and little benefit.

That's why I have several pill cutters in my home, so I can "start low and go slow," gradually increasing the dosage of any medication I am given to try. But let's face it...cutting a pill into fourths or eighths is really hard to do.  Plus there are some medications that should not be cut--especially those that are long-acting and specially-coated to dissolve slowly.

That's where your pharmacist comes in, only not the one at your local chain drug store.  You need to find yourself a compounding pharmacist.

What Is Compounding?

In the old days, every pharmacist was a compounding pharmacist.  They took the medication you needed and created the prescription your doctor wrote, tailoring it to your specific needs.

Today, it might be much harder to find a compounding pharmacist, but it's not impossible.  Plus the benefits of compounding make looking for a compounding pharmacist worth the effort:

  • They can make medications in almost any dosage strength
  • They can turn a pill into a liquid or transdermal gel for people who can't swallow pills
  • They can create allergen-free medication, such as ones without gluten or colored dyes
  • They can add flavor to liquid drugs, usually so that medications are more palatable

While the days of filling a specialized prescription might be over, you can see that compounding remains a good choice for those of us who need a better medication solution than what comes out of a pill bottle.

My Recent Compounding Experience

I recently asked to be prescribed the diabetes medication metformin.

Now I have tried this medication before in 500 mg pill form and immediately had side-effects to it; severe nausea prompted me to stop taking it.  Since my last encounter with metformin, I've done some research and discovered that it might help decrease my Hepatitis C viral load (which at last check was 24,000.000.) That made metformin looked like a good two-for-one choice to treat my diabetes and control my chronic Hepatitis C infection.

Desperately wanting this to work for me, I convinced my doctor to write a prescription for a compounded metformin liquid.  She agreed, instructing my compounding pharmacist to create a 20mg per ml metformin liquid solution using the immediate release tablets.  (The extended release XR or ER could not be used.)  My instructions were to start at a very low dose, 50 mg twice and day, and work my way up to 500 mg twice a day.

I am happy to report that not only have I achieve this goal over a span of eight weeks, I am now taking the 500mg metformin pills twice a day with no severe side effects.  My diabetes is under much better control and I am very curious to see what my next Hep C viral load count reveals.

Could Compounding Help You Too?

Only your doctor and pharmacist can determine if this is right for you.  But it does help to understand what compounding is and educate your doctor about this option if they are unfamiliar with it.  It also helps to talk to a compounding pharmacist to see if your medications can be compounded.

October is American Pharmacists Month

The informational content of this article is intended
to convey general educational information 
and should not be relied upon as a substitute 
for professional healthcare advice.

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Shannon said...

wow Selena, I'm sure this info will be very helpful to so many of us that are super sensitive to medications. I'm doing pretty good so far, not too many really bad reactions. Very grateful!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the liquid metformin worked for you, I too have issues with the pills. I recently have found references on some forums to a transdermal metformin that can be applied as a rub in gel or even a patch. I'm not sure if these will come to market already prepared, but I would be interested to see if a compounding pharmacy would be able to prepare these forms as easily as they did the liquid metformin.