A well-kept secret

Nuclear pharmacy is a specialized practice area that involves the compounding and dispensing of radiopharmaceuticals – radioactive drugs – for use in nuclear medicine diagnostic studies and therapeutic applications.  In 1978 the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS) recognized nuclear pharmacy as its first specialized pharmacy practice setting.

The basics of nuclear medicine

Through the use of radiopharmaceuticals and adjunct medications, nuclear medicine specialists provide safe, non-invasive, and cost-effective methods to image various organ systems and metabolic processes, as well as offer ways to treat certain diseases. Nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging is unique in its ability to provide information about both the structure and function of target organ systems. It provides a way to gather critical diagnostic information that would otherwise be unavailable, require invasive procedures, or necessitate more expensive alternative testing modalities.


The majority of radiopharmaceuticals dispensed are diagnostic in nature, with only a small percentage possessing therapeutic applications. Most are provided in the form of unit dose syringes for parenteral administration. Other dosage forms include, but are not limited to: oral capsules, aqueous solutions for aerosol inhalation and gases for inhalation. Nuclear pharmacists deal with a wide spectrum of drug forms, ranging from:

  • Multi-dose containers of ready-to-go imaging and therapeutic agents delivered directly from the manufacturer
  • Custom compounding of radiopharmaceuticals from basic chemical precursors.


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