The University Pharmacy makes medicine by hand if prefabricated drugs won’t do

Medicine for very young heart transplant patients may not be available on a pharmacy shelf. That is just one kind of unique medication that the staff of University Pharmacy prepares by hand.

Preparing unique compounded medicines is one of the special functions of the University Pharmacy. It compounds approximately half a million individual jars, bottles, tubes or analgesic pumps per year. They can help patients who cannot find a suitable product from the selections of pharmaceutical companies. Tailor-made medicine is used to treat certain heart diseases and various skin conditions, for example.

 “Making medicines by hand is an incredibly precise process, conducted by specialist pharmacists,” says Inka Puumalainen, doctor of pharmacy and director of the business unit at the University Pharmacy. The skill required for compounding medicines is accrued gradually over the years, under the tutelage of senior colleagues.

Personalised medicine is currently a hot topic. Does that mean that soon all drugs will be prepared to meet individual needs and that there will be broader demand for the specialised skills at the University Pharmacy?

 “We currently know that the efficacy and safety of many medicinal formulations are determined by the genetic makeup of each individual. I believe that such genome information will be used increasingly in planning of pharmaceutical treatments. This development could generate new types of demand for the University Pharmacy’s compounding pharmacy,” says Puumalainen.

The pharmacy of the future will be online

An increasing amount of drugs is being purchased online. For example, the amount of prescription drugs sold through the University Pharmacy online store multiplied from 2017 to 2018. At the moment, the University Pharmacy online store has a selection of more than 16,000 prescription and over-the counter drugs and vitamins as well as cosmetic and other pharmacy products.

 “Buying medicine online is easy and fast. Our pharmacists can serve our customers via chat, and orders are delivered within a few business days to the home address or a specified pick-up point,” says Joni Kataja, Head of eRetail at University Pharmacy.

The process is secure, as a strong identification is required from the customers via online bank identifiers during the first login.

The University Pharmacy operates 24 h

The University Pharmacy also offers advice on medication through its 24-hour phone line. The online store chat serves customers from 7 in the morning until midnight. One University Pharmacy location, at Mannerheimintie 96, is open around the clock.

Online sales also enable the pharmacy to expand. The governmental pharmacy licence restricts the number and geographical location of brick-and-mortar pharmacies, but no such limitations exist online.

Pharmacy trainees learn the ropes

The University Pharmacy is Finland’s second oldest company. It was established as part of the Royal Academy of Turku, and it has several special national duties: in addition to the preparation of unique compounded medications, it provides traineeships for pharmacy students and is responsible for research on pharmaceutical services.

The research on pharmaceutical services is conducted in cooperation with Finnish universities. For example, the University Pharmacy has donated professorships to the University of Helsinki and offered grants to researchers. Many theses and dissertations in pharmacy arise from research data provided by the University Pharmacy.

Every year, the University Pharmacy offers traineeships to nearly one hundred students of pharmacy. For example, the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree includes two three-month traineeships in a pharmacy. During the traineeship programme, and with the help of mentors, student learn a tremendous amount about pharmacy work.

The profits from the University Pharmacy end up benefitting society, as all of its profits are recorded for its owner, the University of Helsinki.

The University Pharmacy in figures

1 main pharmacy, 16 branch pharmacies, 5 Ego shops and the online service

Established 262 years ago, in 1755 as part of the Royal Academy of Turku; the second oldest company still in operation in Finland

Three statutory public functions: a compounding pharmacy, traineeships for students of pharmacy and research on pharmaceutical services

Among the Finnish top 200 companies based on turnover (2017: €291.8 million)

960 staff in Finland

16,000 prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as other pharmacy products

24 hours – Finland’s only 24-hour pharmacy is the University Pharmacy on Mannerheimintie 96.

300,000 phone and chat contact with customers in 2017. The phone service is available 24 hours per day; the chat operates 07.00–24.00.

900,000 customers in the loyalty programme

The third best customer service organisation in Finland (Taloustutkimus)


Photo: Jari Riihimäki