COLUMBIA, SC — The University of South Carolinas College of Pharmacy is opening a facility aimed at improving the safety of compounded medications after more than 750 people in 20 states, including three in South Carolina, were sickened in 2012 by contaminated steroid injections.
Most medications are mass produced, but compounded drugs are made from ingredients for specific individuals, according to the Professional Compounding Centers of America.
The medicine, which caused fungal infections and meningitis that led to 64 deaths, was produced in Massachusetts, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The new USC facility, the Aseptic Compounding Experience (ACE) Laboratory, opened Friday in the Coker Life Sciences Building in Columbia. It is believed to be the nations first university-affiliated sterile medication compounding program, officials said.
Safe sterile medication compounding requires highly specific training in an environment not readily available to many pharmacists, said Joseph T. DiPiro, executive dean of the pharmacy college.
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.
More than 500 pharmacy students and more than 1,000 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will train in the lab over the next five years.
Bob Davis, Kennedy professor at the universitys Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center, said that what makes the ACE lab unique is the combination of a sterile facility with the way information is presented to students.
And Brian Ziegler, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy and outcomes sciences, said there is a great benefit to training in a facility where you can also produce a sterile compound.
After the NECC tragedy, industry and regulatory agencies have to help restore the publics 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.