- Many vegetarians unknowingly consume animal-derived substances like gelatin in their medications, as these are often used as coating agents or to enhance the texture of certain drugs.
- The presence of animal-based gelatin in medications is usually classified under inactive ingredients known as excipients, and these are typically not disclosed on drug labels.
- A study highlighted that out of 200 vegetarians or individuals abstaining from animal products, 88% preferred not to take drugs composed of animal-derived ingredients.
- 57% of those preferring vegetarian-based medications would still take them if there were no alternatives, while 43% would refrain. The research points towards emerging ethical dilemmas in the pharmaceutical profession.
- Researchers call for improved labeling and availability of vegetarian substitutes in the composition of drugs, citing a large-scale potential issue beyond urological treatments alone.
Many individuals who adhere to vegetarian diets or refrain from consuming meat due to religious or cultural reasons, may unknowingly be swallowing gelatin sourced from animal products in their prescribed medications, according to recent research.
The Common Presence of Animal-Derived Gelatin in Medications
Gelatin derived from animals is frequently employed as a coating agent for medications, and it is also utilized to enhance the texture in some liquid and semi-solid drugs.
The presence of this gelatin is encompassed under ingredients known as excipients, which are inactive substances such as sweeteners, fillers, and lubricants. These are typically not itemized on drug labels. The researchers, who conducted their work at Manchester Royal Infirmary in England, advocate for more thorough labeling and the availability of vegetarian substitutes to drug ingredients.
Survey Findings on Dietary Preferences and Medication
In the study published online in the noted medical resource, the researchers surveyed 500 patients in Manchester undergoing treatments for urological disorders. The individuals were queried about their dietary habits and their willingness to consume medications containing ingredients derived from animals. Many of the participants identified as belonging to ethnic minorities.
Out of the 500 patients surveyed, well over half were on medication for their condition, and 200 stated they abstain from consuming animal products. Out of those subjects adhering to restricted diets, 88 percent expressed a preference to not take drugs consisting of ingredients derived from animals.
The Ethical Predicament
Out of the individuals who would prefer not to ingest drugs containing animal products, 57 percent would still take the medication if there was no alternative available. On the other hand, 43 percent would refrain. However, merely one in five stated they would consult with their doctor or pharmacist if their prescription contained animal-derived products. This raises to the fore ethical dilemmas for the profession as a whole.
“We are aware that there is generally a lack of knowledge about the presence of excipients in medication,” the researchers revealed. They also highlighted that this issue extends beyond the scope of urological treatments.
“The content of gelatin is likely to present a far larger issue for the 860 million non-urological prescriptions provided in the UK on an annual basis – and the presence of such excipients in these is not easily discernible,” the researchers warn.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides further information on vegetarian diets.