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Many Vegetarians Consume Animal-Derived Products in Medicines

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A recent research by the Manchester Royal Infirmary and South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has raised a controversial issue: What should vegetarians do when medicines contain animal products? The answer seems an easy one: to refuse them or to act according to their conscience. But what if consumers are not appropriately informed about the medicine components, or doctors don’t even know that it contains animal products?

The research, to be published soon in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, focused on a mixed-ethnic sample of 500 people living in Manchester, of which 200 followed a restricted diet. Up to 176 of them declared that they would rather consume vegetarian-only medicines if available, but just 76 said they would refuse the medicine if there was no other option.

Around 20% of this 176 people would check with the doctor or otherwise whether the medicine contain animal products. The problem is whether the drug label information and the doctor knowledge about the medicine ingredients are enough. Many patients wouldn’t even think about the chance that a medicine contains animal products, when in fact many drugs contain gelatin made from animal bones or skin.

“Substitution of gelatin with vegetable-based alternatives and clearer labelling on drug packaging are alternative strategies to help minimise the risks of inadvertently contravening a patient’s dietetic beliefs when prescribing oral medication,” says the authors of the research.

It seems that vegetarians and people on restricted diets should be more involved in asking and the industry and experts should be able to provide more comprehensive information.

Source: The Press Association, New Zealand Doctor

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Vissamsetti, B., Payne, M., & Payne, S. (2012). Inadvertent prescription of gelatin-containing oral medication: its acceptability to patients Postgraduate Medical Journal DOI: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2011-130306

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