Healing Our Heroes: Compounded Topical Medications for Veterans
By now most of us know that wars and military service can inflict wounds that last long after the flesh has healed. I grew up in a home with a veteran who suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and I’m not alone. Millions of American families are touched by these problems which aren’t unique to any generation or any specific war; they’ve affected veterans and families of veterans of Americans since there has been an America to defend.
Because most veterans endure not just one discrete health problem, but a constellation of issues that demand treatment, compounded topical medications are especially useful for their therapeutic benefit. Especially for patients whose symptoms cannot be understood as a single disorder, custom compounded medications can be a crucial solution. This is particularly so when the patient’s needs are confounded by mental illness, substance abuse, chronic pain management, or a combination of these issues.
Top Health Problems Among Veterans
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Post Deployment Integrative Care Initiative, veterans suffer from certain health problems more often than other individuals. These health issues present in veterans consistently after all conflicts, regardless of location and time period. They include: chemical exposure, infectious diseases, mental health issues, musculoskeletal injuries and pain, noise and vibration exposure, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and urologic injuries.
Compounding for Veterans
Both environmental and toxic chemical agents are now commonly used in military conflicts. Unfortunately, many veterans have been exposed to chemicals from Agent Orange to sarin. The American Heart Association has discovered that sarin, a nerve agent, can cause long-term damage to the heart, including arrhythmia, enlargement, and reduced pumping strength. Infectious diseases are another serious issue for veterans despite the fact that vaccinations are routine for deployed troops; many veterans need to be treated for years after their return for infectious diseases.
Complicating less-common issues like these is mental illness; unfortunately, mental illness is very common among veterans. A 2010 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that at least one in ten veterans of the Iraq War develop serious mental health problems. These included alcohol abuse, depression, and violent behavior; the study found that the daily functioning of veterans in the study was “seriously impaired” by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression for between 8.5 to 14 percent of the respondents. Other research has also linked PTSD with additional health problems such as dementia and sleep apnea.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is another common health concern of veterans — what the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) calls the “signature wound” of veterans deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. TBI disrupts brain function, and causes cognitive problems, emotional problems, difficulty processing information, severe headaches, and shortened attention span. These veterans are also prone to anxiety, memory loss, and PTSD, like many of their peers.
Finally, chronic pain management from a variety of injuries is a top complaint for veterans. Pain management is a serious issue for veterans, especially when they are also struggling to manage mental health issues and possibly TBI concerns. This is why compounded prescriptions are so important to so many veterans. Compounded topical medications, in particular, are very useful in the treatment of veterans and help many former servicemen and women to tolerate otherwise very difficult drug regimens. Compounded topical prescriptions also enable patients to avoid certain medications that might cause them more difficulty from an addiction perspective; whenever chronic pain management is an issue, dependency is a concern. Particularly for patients who need to avoid opiates, compounded topical medications provide better alternatives for chronic pain management and afford a first line of defense, allowing patients to use heavier pain pills only when necessary.
Until recently veterans were able to receive compounded prescriptions through the Defense Health Agency and TRICARE Health Plan, although the Department of Defense has attempted to cut back on access for veterans. However, the group Patients and Physicians for Rx Access, a coalition of patient advocacy groups, doctors, pharmacists, patients, and healthcare organizations concerned about access to compounded medications, is advocating against this restriction. This January the Beneficiary Advisory Panel (BAP) of TRICARE turned down the proposed recommendations to restrict compounded prescriptions; now the final decision will be made by the TRICARE Director, although the rejection of the restrictions by the BAP appears to be a positive sign in favor of continued access to compounded prescriptions for veterans.
Compounded topical medications for chronic pain management and other specialty medications for veterans is just one area in which we help you serve your community — and the people in it. We are committed to providing each and every customer with high-quality products and reliable information. For more about pharmaceutical compounding and purchasing bulk APIs, please contact Pharmaceutica North America, your trusted compounding resource.