HERMISTON - It's reminiscent of thousands of years ago, when "pharmacists" used their mortars and pestles to discover remedies and to explore theories about the chemical changes in the world around them.

While some cultures still use compounding, or combining different agents, as part of religious rights, compounding is being used in Hermiston to meet local and specialized medicinal needs.

Cascade Clinical Pharmacy owners Brad and Robbie Wolfe stopped filling retail prescriptions in February to focus primarily on compounding, and to become the only compounding pharmacy in the area. The next closest compounding pharmacies are in Portland and Seattle.

Pharmacist Brad Wolfe said by compounding mixtures, he can better serve the patients sent to him by physicians. If someone needs a medicine, but is allergic to the dyes or preservatives in mass produced prescriptions, he can mix some of the same agents with others to better serve the patients, he said.

Wolfe serves hospice patients who are unable to swallow pills. The same medicines are put into creams that are applied and absorbed through the skin, he said.

Children who need to take prescriptions also can have theirs compounded into gummy bears or lollipops to encourage them to take them, Wolfe said. However, he doesn't use that option too often because it might make children think prescriptions should be eaten like candy.

But children watch Wolfe mix the substances and chose the flavoring.

"It tastes horrible, but if they've had their input in it, then maybe it's easier for them to take," Wolfe said.

Cascade Clinical Pharmacy also serves nonhuman patients at local veterinary offices and at the Oregon Zoo in Portland for its iguanas and monkeys.

Some patients are better served by the mass-produced prescriptions available on the market, he said. In that case, Wolfe encourages patients to stick with what they were prescribed.

"We don't want to mess with something if it's working well for them," Robbie Wolfe said.

According to the book, "Pharmacy, An Illustrated History" by David L. Cowen and William H. Helfand, combining different agents, or compounding, the first known chemical processes were carried out by the artisans of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China. Most of these craftspeople were employed in temples and palaces, making luxury goods for priests and nobles. In the temples, priests especially had time to speculate on the origin of the changes they saw in the world about them. Their theories often involved magic, according to the book, but they also developed astronomical, mathematical, and cosmological ideas, which they used in attempts to explain some of the changes that are now considered chemical.

A couple of years ago, the law requiring the Food and Drug Administration to regulate compounding was overturned as a part of a law that regulates advertising medications.

Since then, compounding pharmacies are regulated by the State Board of Pharmacy. Wolfe said he follows the same guidelines the FDA originally maintained while the FDA determines how to regulate compounding.

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