A recent survey published in Postgraduate Medical Journal found that up to 25 percent of patients are unknowingly prescribed drugs containing gelatin, despite a strong preference not to consume animal products. This news is problematic for vegetarians, vegans and those who avoid animal products for religious or cultural reasons.
Animal-derived gelatin is a common coating agent and thickener in many medications, especially generic brands. Because this gelatin is typically part of inactive substances known as excipients, often it is not included in a drug’s ingredient list.
Compounding the problem, most patients who stated they would prefer not to consume animal products in the survey admitted they would not ask their doctor or pharmacist if their prescription contained animal-derived ingredients.
This study makes it clear that more comprehensive labeling requirements and practices (in addition to vegetarian drug alternatives) are needed to allow consumers to make informed decisions about prescription drug use.
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