Retail Pharmacy vs. Compounding Pharmacy: What’s the Difference?

Retail Pharmacy vs. Compounding Pharmacy: What’s the Difference?


When you need to purchase medicine, you visit the nearest pharmacy. Pharmacies are a vital part of the healthcare system as it helps patients get the prescribed drugs.  Almost every person knows what a pharmacy is but only a few know that there are different types of pharmacies out there. Most people don’t understand the difference between a standard retail pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy. Both retail and compounding pharmacies perform the same function- provide prescribed medication. However, there is a difference in the type of medications provided by both. So, to help you better understand the difference between the two, let’s take a closer look at these two types of pharmacies.

Difference between Retail and Compounding Pharmacy

As we all know, a retail pharmacy is a standard drug store that provides commercially produced medicines. This traditional or regular pharmacy provides medicines prescribed by a doctor that are readily available for sale. The large pharmaceutical companies mass-produce drugs in standard dosages that are available through retail pharmacies. A compounding pharmacy, on the other hand, creates customized medications to suit a patient’s specific needs. Unlike retail/regular pharmacies that provide standardized dosages, compounding pharmacies can alter the dosage and ingredients to deliver customized medications.

Now, you may wonder which is one is the best option for you. Both regular and compounding pharmacies play a vital role and your choice depends on your health needs. For instance, if you don’t have any specific allergy and need quick pain relief for a sprained ankle or flu, a retail pharmacy can help you get the medication. These regular pharmacies are suited for those who need over-the-counter solutions. However, if you’re allergic to some ingredients found in commercial medications or the drug you need is commercially unavailable, then a compounding pharmacy is a right choice. Now that you know the difference between these two types of pharmacies, let’s find out more about compounding pharmacies to make things even more clear.

What is Compounding Pharmacy?

Compounding pharmacies work on the principle that every individual is unique and has different health needs. So, when every individual is unique, their medication should also be unique- customized to fit their specific needs. Compounding pharmacies specialize in customizing medication by adjusting their dosage, eliminating allergy-causing ingredients, and changing forms. Compounding pharmacies can be a better option than regular retail pharmacies for several reasons.

Why Consider Compounding Pharmacies?

There are some benefits offered by compounding pharmacies that retail pharmacies fail to provide. Compounding pharmacies help you access unavailable medication.  The major pharmaceutical companies keep introducing new medications and discontinuing those that are less in demand. However, low demand doesn’t mean no patient needs that treatment. So, whether you need a discontinued medication or an out-of-stock drug, compound pharmacies can provide medications that retailers fail to offer. A licensed compounding pharmacist can work with your physician to formulate discontinued or hard-to-find drugs. You can also get the same prescription in a different form. A compound pharmacist can change the form of a drug into a liquid, chewable, powder, suppository, or topical form. They add specific ingredients or remove allergy-causing dye or preservatives. It is also possible to make medications more palatable.