Australia’s health-savvy aging population is driving an increase in demand for personalised medication, with that demand expected to increase over the next 20 years, according to an expert in the field of compounded medication.
Gold Coast-based chemist, Matthew Bellgrove, said he’s been tracking a noticeable increase in the number of over-60 patients coming to him with scripts for individually-tailored, hand-made medication in recent years.
“The reasons are many and varied,” Mr Bellgrove said, “There’s a growing awareness in the community that one-size-fits-all medication is not the only option. If you have special needs and wants, those can be accommodated. This is where hand-made medication comes in.”
“Today we have specialised food products, diet plans and exercise programs to suit a wide range of health needs. Practically every restaurant has gluten-free, vegetarian and low carb options on their menus. There’s no reason why people with specific health needs shouldn’t be able to also have their medication made-to-order.”
According to Mr Bellgrove, patients desperate to continue using a medication that’s been discontinued by the drug manufacturer are increasingly coming to his pharmacy, National Custom Compounding, for help after exhausting all other avenues.
“Some of the people we see are on long term treatment plans for a chronic condition,” Mr Bellgrove said, “They’ve gone through a long and tiring process of trial and error to find a medication that works for them with minimal side effects. If a manufacturer suddenly stops producing that drug after many years because it’s no longer as popular as it once was, or it’s become unprofitable to make, it can leave patients - often elderly patients - in a real bind.”
Mr Bellgrove said that compounding chemists can make up new supplies of discontinued medication which allows patients to continue with their long-term treatment plans.
“It’s a big relief to some patients when they’re told this service is available. They’re spared the pain of having to go through the trial and error process all over again.”
Difficulty swallowing large pills is another of the more common complaints Mr Bellgrove hears from the over-60s patients who come to him to have their prescribed medication made up in easy-to-swallow liquid form.
“We’re also seeing an increase in the number of patients who suspect they may have allergies to some of the preservatives, dyes and fillers used in some mass-produced drugs,” Mr Bellgrove said, “They may have been putting up with the side effects for years until they’ve come across a doctor who understands that medications can be made up from scratch - free of all the additives - by a compounding chemist.”
Mr Bellgrove said there was very little price difference between personalised, or compounded medication, and mass-produced drugs and that the main issue preventing over-60s from accessing personalised medication was lack of awareness.
“A lot of people don’t know that personalised medication exists; that it’s even an option,” Mr Bellgrove said, “And interestingly, a lot of doctors are not familiar with the service either. This is despite the fact that compounding pharmacies have been around centuries longer than drug manufacturers.”
“We’d like for people to know that there are options when it comes to their medication. They don’t have to put up with the discomfort and side effects that they may have in the past. We find that most doctors are very open to the idea when they understand how it works, so we encourage patients to talk to their doctors about compounded medication if they think they might have a need.”
“However we’d like to remind patients that only their doctor is familiar with their particular health condition - we strongly urge patients to always follow their doctor’s instructions and recommendations as they’re in the best position to provide the right medical advice.