Paul Savage, MD, Comments on Compounding Pharmacies Under Fire


Ageology's CEO Dr. Paul Savage, a bioidentical hormone therapy expert who regularly uses compounding pharmacies, comments on the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis related to compounding pharmacies. Tragedy has struck due to a contaminated injectible medication produced by a compounding pharmacy (New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts (NECC).

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced an outbreak of fungal meningitis due to contaminated injections of corticosteroids for patients with back and joint pain. The current CDC count of causes has reached 205 with 15 confirmed deaths. Fungal meningitis is not contagious, but can be fatal, especially if left untreated.

While health officials continue to investigate the outbreak of a rare type of meningitis infecting over 205 people as of October 15, compounding pharmacies are under fire.

Using a compounding pharmacy might seem foreign to some, but a necessity to many. Unlike Walgreens or CVS, a compounding pharmacy makes special medications for doctors, not just some doctors- all doctors, including NBC's chief medical editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman . Compounding Pharmacies make small batches of tailored medications ranging from specialized cancer treatments to bioidentical hormone therapy.

Americans, the medical establishment, the media and the United States government are all rightfully calling for a review of the policies that led up to this event.

"Great caution should be taken not to throw the baby out with the bathwater," said Dr. Savage. "Compounding pharmacies are an important component to the medical health care system."

Why Are Compounding Pharmacies Important?

"Compounding pharmacies assist physicians by giving us the ability to order medications that are not otherwise available through traditional commercial pharmacies. This includes taking commonly prescribed medications which may contain an additive which is unwanted and making the medication without the additive. Compounding pharmacies can also take "bad tasting" medications and make them taste better, for the use with our patients who are children or patients who wish to have their daily medications easier to tolerate.

"Many patients rely on compounding pharmacies to prepare medications like natural (bioidentical) hormones in the treatment for menopause and low male testosterone. I am aware that many compounding pharmacies may not be up to snuff; however this does not apply to the compounding pharmacies that closely follow and adhere to national and state regulations.

"Many compounding pharmacies, such as Diplomat National Compounding Pharmacy, Medaus Pharmacy and University Compounding Pharmacy to mention a few compound medication in accordance with United States Pharmacopeia (USP) guidelines 797 and 795. These compounding pharmacies have compounding policies and procedures which have been validated and approved under our Accreditation Commission for Healthcare (ACHC) and Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAPS) accreditations.

"In the view of either "tightening" federal regulations on compounding pharmacies, or at the very least reviewing the policies (and possible lack of regulation and/or enforcement) which did not catch this tragedy before it struck, let us ask ourselves, to which balance is best.  Certainly, a review of how this tragedy occurred and a knowledgeable plan to implement to lower the risk of this occurring again should be explored. 

"On the flip side, banning compounding of medications would be a tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on compounding pharmacies for their health and well-being," said Savage.