The Issue on Medications with Animal-Derived Ingredients
If the patients only knew that some prescription drugs they are taking have been made with gelatin derived from animal products, most probably they would have avoided it. Vegetarians who avoid meat and people who do not eat meat for cultural or religious reasons would probably do the same thing.
Gelatin that is derived from animal products may be used in making coating agents for medications and thickener for liquid or semi-solid medicines.
What is an Excipient?
Gelatin is not listed as an ingredient on a drug’s label because it is considered as an excipient. An excipient is any inactive substance, including filler, sweetener and lubricant, that is used in making medications. Researchers from the Manchester Royal Infirmary in the U.K. point out the need for a comprehensive labeling and the consideration for vegetarian alternative ingredients in drugs.
Surveying Patients About Drugs with Animal Products
Some 500 patients with urological disorders were surveyed by the researchers in Manchester regarding their dietary preferences. The respondents, many of which were from ethnic minority groups, were also asked if they were willing to take drugs that contain animal-derived ingredients.
More than 50 percent of the 500 patients were taking prescription medication and 200 of them had strict instructions not to take in animal products. About 88 percent of the 200 patients expressed their disagreement in taking any drugs with animal-derived ingredients.
Those who said that they don’t want to take any medication with ingredients derived from animals were further asked if they would take the drug anyway if there are no alternatives. 57 percent said yes and 43 percent said no.
The survey also revealed that 1 of 5 patients said that before taking any medication, they would ask the doctor or pharmacist if it contained animal products.
All the findings of the survey appear to show an ethical dilemma. The researchers also said that the doctors don’t know much about this issue of excipients from animal products.
Gelatin in drugs is not limited to medicines for urological problems. There are 860 million non-urological drugs with unknown excipient content that are prescribed every year in the U.K. So this issue is truly a growing concern.
Photo credits: Gel capsules by Adrian Wold – Woldo – Own work via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5