VCU opens rare university-based sterile compounding pharmacy

Students prepare an antibiotic to demonstrate the capabilities of the new Center for Compounding Practice and Research space.

Students prepare an antibiotic to demonstrate the capabilities of the new Center for Compounding Practice and Research space.

At the ribbon-cutting for Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy’s Center for Compounding Practice and Research, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., spoke to the room of faculty, staff, students and state legislators about the university’s innovative approach to education.

“We are trendsetters,” Rao said. “We have to be ahead of the change so that others who are behind us can follow.”

On Friday, VCU celebrated the opening of the sterile medication compounding facility. The academic pharmacy is one of only a handful of its kind in the country.

“Completion of this center puts us at the forefront of schools of pharmacy around the country in terms of compounding training,” said Joseph T. Dipiro, Pharm.D., dean of the VCU School of Pharmacy. “It will propel VCU to become a regional and national training center for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, industry personnel and pharmaceutical regulators.”

Pharmacy compounding is the art and science of preparing personalized medications for patients. Compounded medications are made based on a practitioner’s prescription in which individual ingredients are mixed together in the exact strength and dosage form required by the patient. At one time, nearly all prescriptions were compounded, but with the advent of mass drug manufacturing in the 1950s and ‘60s, compounding rapidly declined and most pharmacists were no longer trained on how to compound medications. Compounding has thus become a specialization and, while many pharmacy schools still teach it, it is often reduced to a few lessons.

Joseph DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy; Del. S. Chris Jones; Victor Yanchick, Ph.D., former dean of the School of Pharmacy; VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.; Del. Kirk Cox; and Barbara Exum, Pharm.D., director of the Center for Compounding Practice and Research.

Joseph DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy; Del. S. Chris Jones; Victor Yanchick, Ph.D., former dean of the School of Pharmacy; VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.; Del. Kirk Cox; and Barbara Exum, Pharm.D., director of the Center for Compounding Practice and Research.

“Specialized medications, patient-specific medications and drug shortages have led to an increase in our need to be able to compound medications,” said Barbara Exum, Pharm.D., director of the new center. “This increase has led to the need to educate our pharmacists and give them advanced training in safely compounding medication for our patients.”

The center will be dedicated to advancing the safe and effective use of extemporaneously compounded medication and personalized medicine through training in the Pharm.D. program, classroom and certificate training, continuing education programs and research. The center has an interactive, learner-centered instructional lab and a cleanroom for aseptic processing. The lab can accommodate 45 participants to work interactively on simulated electronic medical records of virtual patients to tailor dosage regimen. They proceed as subgroups to learn the techniques of sterile compounding and aseptic processing under the surveillance of real-time video capture for feedback. Participants’ aseptic manipulation skills are then evaluated by sterility testing.

After the ribbon-cutting, third-year pharmacy students demonstrated how the cleanroom would be utilized. The four students first donned two pairs of disposable gloves, goggles and sterile suites. They then wiped down the surfaces in the room with alcohol swabs before preparing an antibiotic.

“With the opening of this new center, our students will be better prepared in the art and science of sterile compounding than most students throughout the U.S.,” Exum said. “We are proud to be paving the way.”