While we tend to live in an off-the-shelf world, where the things we buy are mass-produced in some factory and marketed on a one-size-fits-all basis, surprising exceptions to that general rule exist. The ones that first spring to mind include things like hand-made luxury items, such as designer clothes and seagoing yachts.
However, billionaires are not the only people who have access to custom goods. One of the most long-established traditions in the world of custom goods is found at your local pharmacy, where it is common to have certain medications put together by the licensed pharmacist in residence, rather than doled out of a big bottle of narcotics that came from some giant corporation.
This is the process known as compounding in the world of pharmaceutical practice. Compounding originated in the distant past, when pharmacists often carried nothing but a stock of bulk chemicals. When a patient came into their store, they then mixed portions of these basic ingredients together into a custom blend of their own making, although the general formula often followed some overall industry-wide principles. Many people believed this is the best compounding pharmacy.
In today’s world, compounding happens in the form of custom mixing portions of two or more separate prescriptions into a single pill or potion. That way, the patient does not need to take many medications. They can get by with just a single dose of the combined, or compounded, one every day. It is much rarer than it once was, but one can see the obvious advantages that come from taking a custom-formulated compound.
For those attracted to more naturopathic methods, compounding is much more widespread. The basic building blocks of most naturopathic remedies include various herbs and other natural products, mixed together to achieve the desired effect. Adding a bit of ground willow root to a measure of sassafras is more acceptable to the FDA than the idea of compounding, and thus adulterating, the dosages that come in standardized form for most prescription formulations.
Compounding is not allowed at all, especially for restricted substances. However, the tradition still lives. It has, however, become more of a concept that one has to request and pay extra for, rather than serving as the standard part of pharmaceutical practice it once was. In a world of mass production, custom pharmaceutical compounding is weakened, but survives.