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    How risky are compounding pharmacies?

    A national meningitis outbreak that had caused 15 deaths and more than 200 illnesses as of Sunday — due to a contaminated injectable steroid made in mass quantities by a Framingham compounding pharmacy — has raised concerns about the safety of any drug mixed by individual pharmacists rather than made in a manufacturing facility.

    Thousands of Americans continue to receive compounded drugs in order to get cheaper prescriptions or medications that aren’t available from big pharmaceutical companies.

    If you use a compounding pharmacy, should you stop?


    “We’ve gotten dozens of calls from patients about this ever since the outbreak,” said Andrew Stein, a pharmacist and manager of Bird’s Hill Pharmacy in Needham. Patients should be reassured that when compounding pharmacies make single prescriptions at a time, as they’re supposed to, the medicines are as safe as those made in large plants, Stein said.

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    But the FDA disagrees. “Consumers need to be aware that compounded drugs are not FDA-approved,” FDA deputy director Kathleen Anderson said in a statement. “This means that FDA has not verified their safety and effectiveness.”

    Stein said his pharmacy has taken the precaution of getting accredited by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board, which requires inspections every three years to ensure that safety procedures are in place.D.K.