GREAT FALLS - There has been no shortage of shortages since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic which put a strain on America’s supply chain of multiple essential products.
Over two years later and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to struggle with an amoxicillin shortage. Tylenol and ibuprofen are separately in short supply.
Montana Apothecary and Compounding (MAC) in Great Falls is one of the many compounding labs in the state of Montana. It appears to be a typical pharmacy but there is much more beneath the surface.
MAC has a regular pharmacy for the everyday prescription recipient. And when there are shortages of certain medicines across the nation, its compounding lab can create a formula to combat the name-brand shortage.
For example, Tylenol which is acetaminophen is a name-brand over-the-counter medicine. The shortage lies within that label. What the compounders can do is save the day for those in need.
“People have been coming in. We've been very busy. We've had moms come in wanting, you know, to see if we have it available. Luckily, we are a compounding pharmacy, so we're able to kind of help the community in that way and help with shortages of drugs,” said Shelbi Witt, a pharmacist and owner of MAC.
What is compounding? It’s a process in which a technician can fill a prescription to the needs of the patient without the same ingredients as the name brand.
“When you are making anything that's on the shortlist or something that is hard to come by compounding fills that gap because it allows you to make ingredients or put together ingredients that are not readily available. So, say you are allergic to a dye or a normal filler. We can take that out of your compounds,” said Compounding Technician Shantol Lerche.
It’s an easy process, with only a couple of ingredients for compounded acetaminophen suspension (liquid Tylenol).
It starts with measuring the solids (solid medicine) to the specifications of the formula. Then mixed with a mortar and pestle while adding more liquid and mixing in flavor until it becomes a liquid medicine.
It’s a safe option when supplies are sparse. Yet, a compound can’t be bought over the counter.
It is a prescribed medicine, but one that isn’t difficult to obtain from your doctor, especially on a list of dwindling medications.
MAC is a local business and the practices for payment are competitive with big box pharmacies that are quite literally across the street from its location.
“Stay connected to your doctor. Stay connected to your local pharmacies. Get to know your local pharmacist. We're great people and seek your compounding pharmacies.”
MAC is located at 1921 11th Avenue South in Great Falls.