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Are There Animal Products in Your Medicine?
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Are There Animal Products in Your Medicine?

Although you adhere to a strict vegan diet and lifestyle, ensuring that no animal products are present in your food or daily products, you might be surprised to discover that there could be some animal products lurking in the tablets you take for certain health issues.

According to a book called 'Veganissimo A-Z' by German authors Lars Thomsen and Rueben Proctor, most of the medication that’s on our shelves contain animal derivatives. Other research backs it up. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, almost three out of four commonly prescribed medicines contain ingredients that have been derived from animals. Yikes! 

  • What Animal Ingredients are in Medicine? 

An example is lactose. It is often a stabilizer or bulk-adding ingredient. Another example is gelatin. Derived from pigs and cattle, it is used largely in tablets and capsules. Even fatty acids from animals can find their way to your medicine cabinet - known as magnesium stearate, it is often found in capsules, tablets and powdered medicine. Pills that contain pink or reddish coloring often have achieved it thanks to a red dye that is made from crushed cochineal beetles. There are also active ingredients that are derived from animals, such as yeast and bacteria (such as in the process of making insulin). Other drugs that can contain these include hormone preparations and amino acid infusions.

What is further scary is that it’s not just more potent medicines that are more likely to contain animal products. Tablets such as aspirin and ibuprofen that you take for less serious issues might also contain animal by-products.

What You Can Do

  • 1. Speak to your doctor and air your concerns about being vegan and not wanting animal derivatives in your medication. He/she will likely be able to offer vegan alternatives. For instance, gelatin and magnesium stearate usually have vegetarian options.
  • 2. Get informed about medicines and what is in them. Always read labels properly. Do internet searches for ingredients you don’t understand. Also check out the manufacturers’ websites.
  • Still not enough information? Contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Support
    Thanks Giulia! Fantastic and little-known information. We just shared this to our "Vegan Health" board on Pinterest! Thanks as always, for contributing to The Flaming Vegan.
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    1. Giulia Simolo
      Giulia Simolo
      Thanks so much! I love contributing to this wonderful site. :) xx
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  2. beachgurl
    I voted! What a great article! Some thyroid medicines are also derived from animals. In that case, it can put people in a sticky bind. The non-animal version decreases bone density, especially in small framed people, and often doesn't work as well for the auto-immune version of hypothyroidism. Vegans can have some tough decisions.
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