Compounding pharmacy industry is fighting a unique battle on the front of medications for pain management. For decades, one of the key challenges with opioid based approved painkillers in the US has been their abuse for non-medical reasons as well as their addictive properties that can make genuine patients dependent on these drugs.

Compounding pharmacists could be in a position to formulate innovative medications that address the needs of pain management without the risks of addictiveness or abuse. Top compounding pharmacist and entrepreneur Dr. Hootan Melamed is of the firm opinion that compounding pharmacy can offer successful breakthroughs in this area, if given a full opportunity.

Challenge Posed by Benefit Managers

Major pharmacy benefit managers are cutting back on the coverage for a variety of ingredients and chemicals that are used in making compounding medications to address pain. Leading pharmacy benefit managers such as Express Scripts and OptumRx have curtailed or dropped coverage for compounding medications in this area in recent times.

Low Access to Patients

Dr. Hootan Melamed, who has spent several years in the research and development of credible pain management solutions in compounding pharmacy, said that the access to patients for customized pain medications is being reduced. This is occurring due to the rigid stance of benefit managers to limit coverage for these medications. It is possible to replace opioids with safer, non-addictive alternatives if a favorable business environment is created.

Cutting down Opioid Abuse

Opioid abuse is a widespread problem in the US, and compounding pharmacy can provide potential solutions. John Voliva, director of legislative relations for the Professional Compounding Centers of America, a leading trade group that represents nearly 4,000 independent pharmacists, strongly supports the idea of using compounding medications to curb opioid abuse. Compounding can convert an oral painkiller with potential for abuse into a topical cream that will minimize the risk of abuse.

Economic Aspect for Benefit Managers

Pharmacy benefit managers are experiencing cost escalation due to the growing demand for compounding medications. This may be one of the key reasons behind their measures to reduce coverage for these drugs. For instance, OptumRx has said that the use of compounding drugs among its members has shot up by 35% over a 12-month period between 2012 and 2013. Catamaran, another leading pharmacy benefit manager reported that its annual costs for compounding medications grew five-fold among its commercial clients.

Growth in Compounding

From 2009 to 2014, the compounding pharmacy industry in the US has grown at an average annual growth rate of 1.5%. This was reported by the leading financial analyst IBIS World. It also predicted that the growth in compounding pharmacy will be in the range of 3.5% a year between 2015 and 2019, with estimated revenues of $6.2 billion a year.

The voices in favor of alternative pain medications to tackle the risks posed by opioids have become more numerous over the last 10 years. The CDC reported that over 12 million Americans used prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes in 2010, which cost $72 billion to insurers in medical expenses.

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