What is a Compounding Pharmacy?

Customised medication made to order

Historically, all pharmacies were once compounding pharmacies. Pharmaceutical ingredients would be prepared into a customised formulation according to a doctor’s instructions for the treatment of a specific condition in an individual patient. Since the explosion of commercial and large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturing, the requirement for customised pharmaceutical compounding declined.

compounding pharmacy bottles
Historically, all pharmacies were once compounding pharmacies.

Today, compounding has evolved to become a specialised production service for a sector of the population whose needs cannot be met with commercial pharmaceuticals.

Whilst many commercially manufactured medications may benefit a majority of individuals, they do not necessarily offer a mutually beneficial outcome for everyone due to the “one size fits all” approach we’ve come to adopt in healthcare.

With specialised training and skills, compounding pharmacists will formulate, calculate, prepare, package and label a unique medication made to order from a written medical prescription from the patient’s doctor.

However, the nature of commercial pharmaceutical manufacturing in mass means that individual variances such as the need for an alternative strength, dosage form or addressing potential allergies are not accounted for.

This is where compounding stands apart, with the ability to adapt to individual requirements.

With specialised training and skills, compounding pharmacists will formulate, calculate, prepare, package and label a unique medication made to order from a written medical prescription from the patient’s doctor.

Compounding pharmacies work collaboratively alongside prescribing doctors for compounded preparations to ensure precision and accuracy with the formulation and dosage.

green dispensary compounding pharmacy
Green Dispensary Compounding has a state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility dedicated to compounded medicines production.

Do I need a prescription for compounded medications?

Yes, in most cases, most compounded preparations will require a medical prescription if the ingredients are classified as “prescription only” active ingredients.

Other active ingredients such as vitamins, minerals or topical cosmetic ingredients may not require a medical prescription but should be sent by order from a healthcare practitioner such as a nutritionist, naturopath or cosmetic nurse for example, to ensure a safe and efficacious preparation can be provided.

If unsure, it is best to check what the requirement is for a particular ingredient or medication with the compounding pharmacy directly.

Compounding pharmacies cannot supply medications or formulations that are already commercially manufactured and available in the market.

green dispensary compounding pharmacy
Compounding pharmacies can provide medications in a wide variety of forms and delivery methods

What is the difference between a standard pharmacy and a compounding pharmacy?

A standard pharmacy dispenses commercial pharmaceutical medicines that are registered for medical use in Australia. They commonly also supply a variety of non-pharmaceutical items such as vitamin and mineral supplements, cosmetics, skincare and over the counter treatments for nausea, diarrhoea, dehydration or wound care.

A compounding pharmacy, on the other hand, does not commonly supply any of the above, and instead, are dedicated production facilities that develop custom medications to order.

Compounding pharmacies can provide medications in a wide variety of forms and delivery methods, for example:

Table: Regular Pharmacy and Compounding Pharmacy compared

Regular Pharmacy Compounding Pharmacy
Requires prescription?
Yes (in most cases)
Safe and legal
Customisable ingredients?
Variety of delivery methods?
Medicine is mass-produced?
Likely to include preservatives to increase shelf life?
No (in most cases)
Allergy specific medications available?

What Are the Benefits of Compounding?

Here’s a handy list of all the benefits provided by compounding pharmacies:

1. Can assist patients with allergies or intolerances:

Some commercially available medicines can contain non-active ingredients known as excipients such as preservatives, fillers, colours and flavours, or potential allergenic ingredients such as dairy, gluten or soy. These ingredients may be intended to either increase the shelf life of the product or enhance its consistency, palatability or visual appearance. However, it is not uncommon for some individuals to have reactions to certain excipient ingredients.

Should this be the case, custom compounding can offer patients a tailored solution, avoiding specific ingredients where they’re unsuitable or undesirable.

2. Ability to create medications in different formats to meet human or animal patient needs:

In many cases, an active ingredient in a medicine is delivered into the body in an alternative dosage form to its commercially prepared form. For example, a commercially prepared pharmaceutical drug available in tablet format may be compounded into a powder or liquid to enable easier ingestion.

Active ingredients may also need to be delivered in a topical or transdermal delivery vehicle or a format for rectal or vaginal absorption.

Custom compounding can achieve this through calculation of the appropriate strength formulated in the appropriate medicine format to deliver the required dosage each time.

If palatability of a medicine is an issue, compounding pharmacies can use natural, semi-natural or other flavours to assist with compliance by masking or neutralising bitter or strong flavours of active ingredients.

Flavours for human patients may include vanilla, strawberry and cream, chocolate, mint and lime, whilst others such as beef, chicken or tuna can help the medicines go down easier for our furry patients.

3. Multi-ingredient formulations

There are times when active ingredients work well in combination to address a particular health condition. The ability to customise formulations with multiple active ingredients may improve the efficacy and the outcome for a patient.

Through consultation with prescribing doctors, compounding pharmacies are well-placed to offer advice and guidance on the compatibility of different ingredients within a particular formulation for a patient to address a specific health concern quickly and effectively.

4. Access to discontinued medications

An unprecedented demand for medicines during the past two years of the pandemic has seen major disruptions in the availability of some medicines at the point of manufacturing through to supply and logistical challenges.

As Australia imports more than 85% of its commercially manufactured medicines, it makes us susceptible to drug shortages at these times whilst in some instances, medications may have been discontinued for various reasons.

In circumstances where a required medication is not able to be supplied either temporarily or indefinitely, the patient’s doctor may have to find an alternative.

However, a compounding pharmacy is also lawfully able to produce and supply exacting medicines that are unavailable if a patient needs to continue treatment with that medication as prescribed by their healthcare practitioner.

5. Veterinary medicines

The availability of registered and approved medicines for animal use is significantly less than the available registered medicines for human use. This means in most states and territories, veterinarians may need to access human medicines for off-label prescribing in animals, have a suitable preparation compounded, or apply for a registered medicine overseas to be imported for use by an individual patient.

Due to the variances in animal species, breeds, sizes and physiological and biochemical factors that may need to be accounted for, a compounding pharmacy is suitably placed to customise a specific strength and format to order on a veterinarian’s instructions.

How long does it take to get compounded medications?

The time to make a compounded medicine can vary depending on whether it is a simple or complex medicine. Most simple compounds can take between 1-2 days, whilst complex compounds can take slightly longer. If the medicine is urgent, it is best to check with the compounding pharmacy to determine the expected turnaround time.

The Green Dispensary Compounding experience.

As one of the longest serving and largest compounding facilities in Australia, Green Dispensary Compounding has evolved to meet the growing and changing needs of customised healthcare in Australia.

We’ve invested in a purpose-built facility with capabilities for a wide portfolio of medicines including sterile products such as eye preparations, implants and injectables. With dedicated preparation areas, we can guarantee precise and predictable formulations with assured stability.

Our longstanding range includes pain preparations, sterile eye preparations, men’s and women’s health products, topical treatments, hormonal preparations and various antimicrobial and antifungal treatments. However, we remain responsive to the changes and demands in patient health, recently adding medical cannabis products to our portfolio with new and evolving formats to improve patient outcomes.

Whilst adhering to our professional and industry standards, we strive to remain patient-focused by delivering exceptional service and products, and aim to continually raise the bar for best practices, education and patient and practitioner support in the medicines field.

Interested in finding out more? Contact us with your specific questions, and we will connect with you to discuss the possibilities.

Map of Australia, the service area for online national compounding pharmacy
Our online compounding pharmacy delivers compounded medicines and non-prescription medicines nation-wide in Australia

How do I know compounded medicines are safe and effective?

1. The practice of pharmaceutical compounding is governed by the Pharmacy Board of Australia and state health departments.

  • Reputable compounding pharmacies conform to the rigorous quality and safety standards which are in place to assure medicine safety and efficacy for all patients.

2. Circumstances for compounding medicine.

  • Medicine should only be compounded if there is no commercially available medicine that is suitable for a patient’s needs.
  • This may be due to the requirement for a specific strength, dosage format, exclusion of certain excipients or allergen-causing agents or unavailability of a commercially available medicine ingredient.

3. Compounding pharmacists undergo specific further education and training to successfully compound custom medicines.

  • Compounding pharmacists must have the required education, training and appropriate skill to be able to display competency in compounding simple and complex medications to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medication administered to patients.

4. Facility, Equipment and Work Environment.

  • The operation of compounding pharmacies must take place on premises that are of satisfactory design, well-equipped, resourced and maintained. Facilities should also be approved and registered.
  • A risk assessment process should also be conducted in facilities where required.

5. Reputable compounding pharmacies will document their compounding process for each compounded medicine.

6. All labelling and packaging of compounded medications must follow the guidelines and requirements.

7. Appropriate counselling and information should be provided with all compounded medicines.

This includes:

  • Giving instructions on how to use the compounded medicine.
  • Storage instructions and expiration date of the medicine.
  • Information on any anticipated side effects.

Table of Contents

How does the prescription process work?


Complete the secure online form and upload your prescription


We will call you to finalise payment details


Receive your medication!


Compounding is the measurement, preparation, mixing, assembling, packaging and labelling of medication made specifically for an individual need. Compounding exists for patients for whom commercially manufactured medicines are neither available nor appropriate.

Unlike mass produced commercial medications, compounded medications are tailored to an individual’s needs. A doctor can prescribe medication which is dosed specifically for individual patient needs whilst taking any allergies, lifestyle choices or personal requirements into account. This ensures a medication that will work effectively and safely for each patient.

Green Dispensary Compounding has a state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility dedicated to compounded medicines production. With four separate laboratories allocated to various sterile and non-sterile preparations, we can guarantee nil cross-contamination of ingredients during production ensuring that each prescription preparation is fulfilled to exacting standards.

Compounding was the traditional art and science of medicines production prior to the evolution of mass medicines production. It now exists as a lawful, safe and valuable channel for doctors to provide customized medicines for individual patients whose needs cannot be met with conventional manufactured medicines.

Compounding pharmacists undergo extensive additional training in addition to their pharmacy qualifications to specialize in the preparation of sterile and non-sterile medicines.

Every raw material used in each medicine is accompanied with a Certificate of Analysis and any imported ingredients are analysed by an independent, registered analytical laboratory. Green Dispensary Compounding’s code of practice is to use ingredients from Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) suppliers approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) or the USA Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Most compounded products contain active ingredients requiring a doctor’s prescription. However, some non-prescription ingredients can be found in compounded cosmetic products and certain medicinal products which can be purchased on our online store or by enquiring directly with the team at Green Dispensary Compounding.

The cost of compounded medication can vary based on the formulation but most commonly involves the cost and quantity of the active ingredient and the time required to produce the medicine as an individual preparation. Simple compounded medicines will generally be less expensive than more complex formulations where research and development may need to be entered into.

At Green Dispensary Compounding, we are also committed to using the best quality raw materials available to ensure they are safe for human and animal use whilst being efficacious. For more information on cost about particular medicines, our team will be happy to discuss options that will best meet an individual patient’s needs.

Many health funds have an allowance that can assist with the costs of private prescription medicines. We can provide an official receipt to assist with enquiries and claims through individual health funds where required.

The time it takes to compound your medication depends on the ingredients needed and the form it comes in. Most products fall between 1-2 business days from the time the script is received until the product is finished and ready for collection or delivery. Some sterile products may require a slightly longer period which patients will normally be advised of when submitting their prescription.

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