The problem of animal ingredients in medicines

If a vegetarian takes prescription drugs, they run the risk of ingesting products from the flesh of cows, pigs and other animals. These products are found in medicines as their ingredients. Many people tend to avoid it for dietary, religious, or philosophical reasons, but determining the exact composition of medicines is not always easy.

It turns out that the situation in this area is so deplorable that most of the medicines prescribed by doctors contain ingredients of animal origin. At the same time, such ingredients are not always indicated on drug labels and in the attached descriptions, although this information is needed not only by patients, but also by pharmacists.

First of all, it should be noted that you should not stop taking any prescription drug without first talking with your doctor. This can be hazardous to health. If you know or suspect that the medicine you are taking contains questionable ingredients, ask your doctor for advice and possibly an alternative drug or form of treatment.

The following is a list of common animal ingredients found in many popular medicines:

1. Carmine (red dye). If the medicine is colored pink or red, it most likely contains cochineal, a red dye derived from aphids.

2. Gelatin. Many prescription drugs come in capsules, which are usually made from gelatin. Gelatin is a protein obtained in the process of heat treatment (digestion in water) of the skin and tendons of cows and pigs.

3. Glycerin. This ingredient is obtained from cow or pork fat. An alternative is vegetable glycerin (from seaweed).

4. Heparin. This anticoagulant (a substance that reduces blood clotting) is obtained from the lungs of cows and the intestines of pigs.

5. Insulin. Most of the insulin on the pharmaceutical market is made from the pancreas of pigs, but synthetic insulin is also found.

6. Lactose. This is an extremely common ingredient. Lactose is a sugar found in the milk of mammals. An alternative is vegetable lactose.

7. Lanolin. The sebaceous glands of sheep are the source of this ingredient. It is a component of many ophthalmic medicines such as eye drops. It is also found in many injectables. Vegetable oils may be an alternative.

8. Magnesium stearate. Most drugs are made using magnesium stearate, which makes them less tacky. The stearate in magnesium stearate is present as stearic acid, a saturated fat that can come from beef tallow, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and other foods. Depending on the origin of the stearate, this medicinal ingredient may be of vegetable or animal origin. In any case, it tends to depress the immune system. Some manufacturers use stearate from vegetable sources.

9. Premarin. This conjugated estrogen is obtained from horse urine.

10. Vaccines. Most vaccines for children and adults, including the flu vaccine, contain or are made directly from animal by-products. We are talking about ingredients such as gelatin, chicken embryos, embryonic cells of guinea pigs and whey.

In general, the scale of the problem is evidenced by the fact that, according to European researchers, almost three-quarters (73%) of the drugs most commonly prescribed in Europe contain at least one of the following ingredients of animal origin: magnesium stearate, lactose, gelatin. When researchers tried to trace the origin of these ingredients, they were unable to obtain accurate information. The scarce information available was scattered, incorrect, or contradictory.

The authors of the report on these studies concluded: “The evidence we have collected suggests that patients are unknowingly taking medications containing animal ingredients. Neither the attending physicians nor the pharmacists also have any idea about this (about the presence of animal components).

What measures can be taken in connection with the above situation?

Before your doctor prescribes any medicine for you, tell him about your preferences or concerns about the ingredients. Then it is quite possible that you will get vegetable capsules instead of gelatin ones, for example.

Consider ordering medicines directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers who, if you wish, can exclude animal ingredients from the prescription.

Direct contact with the manufacturer makes it possible to obtain accurate information about the composition of finished drugs. Phones and e-mail addresses are posted on the websites of manufacturing companies.

Whenever you get a prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a detailed list of ingredients. 


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