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By Daniel H. Grove, DVM

With our animals, we usually have to cover the costs of healthcare instead of having insurance or the government paying for it. This leads us to look for ways to save money anywhere we can often times. One of the ways is by looking for less expensive medications for our animals. Often times, compounded medications can be less, but there is a reason for it.

Brand name and generic medications are commercially prepared. These drugs must past FDA approval. This is a long and detailed process with studies done as to the efficacy, consistency, and safety of a drug. The FDA monitors these drugs even after they are approved for use. They monitor side effects, and production continuously to ensure the safety of the patients receiving them. With this oversight and regulation, the companies manufacturing these products have to maintain their production facilities with strict adherence to the regulations. It is not uncommon for production of a medication to be stopped for a period of time for updating a manufacturing process or plant to comply with FDA changes that occur. While no one probably lacks appreciation for this safety in the pipeline of medication manufacturing, many of us do not like the idea that it does cost money. Since we are the consumers of the product, we have to pay for this service. Also, if something goes wrong with the use of the medication, most of these companies will stand behind their products and want to make it right with their customers. They will help with testing and treatment of side effects.

Compounded medications follow a different set of rules. When a medication or a delivery form is not available in a commercially available form, we often times turn to compounded medications. Your veterinarian calls up a compounding pharmacy (slightly different than your local pharmacy) and the pharmacist will make up the formulation according to a recipe they have. For oral or topical medications, once made up, they are usually shipped out. For injectable medications, they usually undergo a few weeks of sterility testing and then are ready. Just from this brief description, you can see this is a much less involved process and therefore, your medication is probably going to cost less.

Compounded medications have their place, but there are definitely some drawbacks. First, consistency can be a problem. The process that the medication has been made by is not scrutinized by an independent body. Medications have been tested from various pharmacies and some are highly variable as to the content of the actual drug that they are meant to be delivering. Other drugs, come out of the compounding pharmacy and work just fine. Think of it like a cooking recipe, one person may use a recipe and their dish comes out a hot mess, the next person follows the same recipe and the dish is a big hit. This can be somewhat risky when it comes to treating your horse. The final and huge drawback is that there is no company to stand behind their product if there is a problem.

This means you are on the hook for the expenses if something goes wrong. This is can be a big risk financially if you have to cover the costs of dealing with a bad reaction.

Compounded medications have their place in medicine. When a drug is on backorder and it is needed for day-to-day treatments, they can be great to fill in until you get that commercially made product back. If a commercially made product is discontinued, it can be great to get that medication again, if it can be used safely. Before you plead with your veterinarian to get you that medication cheaper, think about the potential consequences of using a medication that might not quite be the same.

YOU’RE INVITED: West Coast Equine will be hosting an open house for our clients and the community to visit us in our new office location. Come join us for great food, good company and free gifts! July 27, 11 a.m. at 42225 Remington Ave #A13, Temecula, CA 92590.

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