What are the ethics of dermatologists and plastic surgeons compounding their own products?

Hi Dr. Irwin, I just visited my dermatologist today, and he informed me that his practice uses a compounding pharmacy for their own Retin-A formulations, and sells them to their patients. I was wondering if this is common practice amongst dermatologists. I have never been to a dermatologist that had essentially their own "line," if you will, of Retin-A products. The Retin-A I have seen sold under a dermatologists own name is Dr. Obagi. Can you tell me your thoughts on this, and if I should trust purchasing it from my dermatologist or having them write to prescript? Thank you for your more than informative web-site, and all the questions you answer for us. Erin Zortman

I’m glad you raised this issue.   I think it comes down to the quality of the product (and the lab or pharmacy making it), the price and clarity/transparency of the way this is presented to you – the patient!

So in this instance, I’m going to assume that his compounded product is say……the same amount and percentage of what he would prescribe for you.   Then what is the price?   If he can save you money for the same product or…………create a better product for a good price, then that makes sense to me.

Also, in my opinion, the doctor and his/her staff needs to make sure that you feel absolutely no pressure.   If you still want the prescription product, that should be fine!

What I don’t like is when a dermatologist or other doctors are selling products, or for example supplements, under their own private label, and pretending that these are unique, when in fact they just ordered them pre formulated from a lab and put their own label on them.

Hope this helps,

Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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