To compound a medicine is to alter it in some way so that it’s tailored to the needs of a particular patient who wouldn’t be able to tolerate the drug the way it is typically made. In the case of a cat, that could mean putting the active ingredient of the drug into liquid form rather than its usual pill form if the pet hasn’t been acclimated to swallowing a tablet. In some cases, a compounding pharmacy can take a drug that’s ordinarily dispensed in pill form and recreate it as a soft treat that a cat will easily accept. Some drugs can even be formulated to be given as a gel that gets rubbed onto a cat’s coat and enters the body from there. Flavorings can be added, too, in order to entice a cat who might otherwise refuse the medicine. Fish flavoring can be used, for instance, or in some cases malt, which a lot of cats appear to enjoy.
A compounding pharmacy might also be able to take two drugs that have to be injected into a cat and combine them in the same syringe so that only one shot needs to be given.
Compounding has become more widespread — among pets in addition to people. If your cat needs to take a certain medicine for her health, and particularly if she needs to take it on an ongoing basis but has not been taught to accept a pill, speak to your vet about the possibility of having it compounded. An organization called the Professional Compounding Centers of America (www.pccarx.com) has a membership of thousands of pharmacists, many of whom routinely devise medications for animals according to prescriptions supplied by veterinarians.
It must be noted that a compounded drug has not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That means no one is checking to make sure that a drug in liquid form is absorbed by the body as well as in pill form, or even that the concentration of the active ingredient in a compounded drug is the same as in the original version.
That said, veterinarians, including veterinarians at Tufts, have had excellent results with compounded medicines, and many cats have retained or gained health because of them. The positives far outweigh the concerns.