Researchers are calling for alternative excipients for vegetarians who are unwittingly consuming animal fats when physicians prescribe meds containing gelatin.
The researchers made the call after quizzing 500 patients about their awareness of drug ingredients other than the API (active pharmaceutical ingredient).
Results were published in a study, titled ‘Inadvertent prescription of gelatin-containing oral medication: its acceptability to patients’, and show many are unaware gelatin is a commonly used coating agent, as well as a thickener in liquid and semisolid medicines.
Of the 200 participants who would prefer not to take animal products because they are vegetarian, or have dietary requirements linked to religion and other dietetic beliefs, only 10 per cent would knowingly continue therapy containing gelatin.
The study also found 43 per cent of respondents would prefer not to take animal product-containing medication even if no alternative were available.
The team – led by Stephen Payne, a consultant urological surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary – are now calling for call for more comprehensive labelling of drug content.
They also urged the industry to use more vegetarian alternatives to animal gelatin in the manufacturing process. “Altering the manufacturing process so that only non-animal excipients are used in drug formulation,” is a possible solution, they said.
Payne cited non-animal based alternatives for excipients like gelatin, such as agar agar (E406) and carrageenan (E407), derived from various seaweed species, which are already commonly used in the pharma industry.
“Universal incorporation in oral medications would negate the potential for dietetic transgression,” the authors added.
However the researchers do admit the study’s design may present some biases, as it was taken from a mixed ethnicity inner-city population; hence a diverse range of dietary requirements.
They wrote: “The dietetic preferences of our ambient population may not be totally referable to other communities, and this means our conclusions may need to be used with caution when considering the applicability of these data.
“This study does, however, highlight the importance of asking about cultural and lifestyle factors in the prescription and dispensing of oral medications.”