Pharmaceutical Compounding: Equipment & Supplies

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Pharmaceutical compounding is performed all across the country in hospitals, pharmacies, and other medical facilities. Learn about the equipment and supplies needed to compound medications safety and effectively.

Right Tool for the Job

There is an old saying that goes 'use the right tool for the job' that can be applied to any profession. A construction worker should use a hammer for a nail, not a rock, and a hairdresser needs scissors to cut hair, not a knife.

Likewise, pharmacists should use the right equipment and supplies to compound drugs properly and safely. This lesson will go over some of these pharmacy 'tools'.

What is Medication Compounding?

Medication compounding is the making of a medication that meets the needs of a specific patient by mixing, combining, altering, or removing various ingredients of a drug or drugs. There are two general classifications of compounding:

  • Sterile compounding is done in an environment that is free from infectious microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. This process is mostly used for medications that will be administered into the eye or through an IV.
  • Non-sterile compounding is done in an environment that is safe and clean but not completely free of all microorganisms. This process is often used for oral medication (like pills) that will be swallowed or a topical one (like ointment) that will be applied to the skin.

This pharmacist is compounding IV medications using sterile compounding techniques to prevent microorganisms from entering the work area.
sterile compounding

Equipment and Materials

There are many different types of drugs that can be compounded such as pills, inhalants, ointments, creams, and IV fluids. Therefore, there is a wide range of equipment and materials that are needed for the compounding process. Let's see some.

  • Compounding hood: a large piece of equipment that prevents particles from entering and leaving a work area (like a complex version of the vent fan above a cooking stove). Hoods are mostly used for sterile compounding.
  • Autoclave: a relatively large piece of equipment used to sterilize various medical tools and objects such as flasks, funnels, spatulas and reusable syringes
  • Mortar and pestle: used to grind materials and drugs
  • Balance or scale: used to weigh dry materials to ensure the proper amounts of ingredients
  • Flasks, beakers, graduated cylinders: used to measure liquid drugs and materials
  • Spatula: used to mix materials together
  • IV materials: IV bags, catheters, and tubing (used in sterile compounding)
  • Vials: small glass containers that hold fluid drugs
  • Syringes and needles: used to remove fluid from vials

This pharmacist is compounding a medication under a hood using a syringe and needle to remove fluids from a vial.

Compounding also requires personal protective equipment (PPE) (gloves, goggles, masks, etc) that protect the pharmacist from the drug materials and the drug materials from being contaminated by the pharmacist.

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