SC College of Pharmacy opens medication compounding lab

Posted on: 3/14/2014; Updated on: 2/10/2015
By Jeff Stensland, 803-777-3686

Prompted by medication safety concerns after the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak at a New England lab that killed 64 and sickened hundreds, the South Carolina College of Pharmacy (SCCP) at the University of South Carolina is opening a state-of-the-art sterile medication compounding facility that is one of only a few of its kind in the country.

Created to help assure that pharmacists learn the highest standards for compounding of medications, the Aseptic Compounding Experience (ACE) Laboratory enables Carolina to offer what is believed to be the nation’s first university-affiliated sterile medication compounding program with hands-on training, video technologies, coaching and end product testing.   

“Safe sterile medication compounding requires highly specific training in an environment not readily available to many pharmacists,” said Joseph T. DiPiro, SCCP executive dean. “Drug shortages and specialized medications have increased the need for compounded products, which increases the need for properly trained pharmacists who can safely make them for patients.”

The ACE Lab opens Friday (March 14) with an open house. The facility is in the lower level of the Coker Life Sciences Building on the university’s Columbia campus.

Compounding is the creation of a particular pharmaceutical product to fit the unique needs of a patient. Unsafe sterile compounding technique was at the heart of the New England Compounding Center (NECC) outbreak, in which tainted steroid injections led to more than 750 fungal infections, including a few cases in South Carolina, and 64 deaths nationwide. In the aftermath, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices issued a clarion call for additional monitoring and regulations of sterile compounding -- currently being implemented following approval of the Drug Quality and Security Act-- and a greater emphasis on hands-on training.

“What makes this lab unique is the combination of the sterile facility with the way the educational material is presented, using the outreach and capabilities of both the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center (KPIC) and the College,” said Bob Davis, Kennedy professor at the university’s KPIC. “There are very few sterile compounding labs at universities anywhere in the country and none we know of offering this complete program.”

Aseptic technique training will be through core curriculum in the SCCP, while advanced training will be through KPIC continuing education courses and electives. During the next five years, more than 500 pharmacy students and more than 1,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will get training in the ACE Lab.

 “There is a profound learning benefit to training in a facility where you produce a hands-on sterile compound, in compliance with the highest standards, that you can then test,” said Bryan Ziegler, KPIC executive director and SCCP assistant professor of clinical pharmacy and outcomes sciences. “The advanced technology also allows us to train larger groups with live demonstration, recording and coaching, and video capture and distribution. It will revolutionize sterile compounding training.”

“After the NECC tragedy, industry and regulatory agencies have to help restore the public’s confidence that medications are prepared to the highest standards,” DiPiro said. “Colleges of pharmacy can help restore that trust by educating pharmacists who apply proper standards to their work.”

A study in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists found that only 13 percent of deans at the nation’s 130 pharmacy colleges believed their students graduated with adequate training in sterile compounding.

The ACE Lab is compliant with the highest national industry standards for sterile compounding.

“We know of no similar training program anywhere in the nation,” Davis said. “The ultimate benefit of the new ACE Lab is not only better training of future pharmacists, but also its exponential impact on improved patient safety and higher quality of life.”

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