Do I need to check that my medication is gluten-free?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN

Q: Do I need to check that my medication is gluten-free?

Answer


You should always check anything you are ingesting, that includes medications. Gluten may be used as a binder or filler in medications, although this is rare according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 However, you should always check your medications for gluten-free (GF) status.

It is important to note that labeling laws are different for medications than foods. Drug manufacturers do not have to disclose the top 8 allergens on the label or sources of starches and fillers. The FDA has issued a draft guidance for how gluten should be labeled on medications. However, this is voluntary and not required, you may see this statement:

“Contains no ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain (wheat, barley, or rye).” 1

Follow these tips to ensure that your medication is GF:

  • Inform your physician and pharmacist of your need for GF medications.
  • Check the insert or the outside of packaging of both over-the-counter and prescription medications. Look for an ingredient listing and check the inactive ingredients for gluten.
    • For prescription medications this is usually listed in the Description section
    • For over-the-counter medications this is usually listed under Drug Facts1
  • Call or go online to the pharmaceutical company website to check for GF status and ingredient listings for both prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Keep in mind that pharmacies use different manufacturers and generics of the same medication, therefore it is important to check the ingredients each time you receive your medication.
    • Your doctor can write “no substitutions” on your prescription which will prevent the pharmacy from switching it out, however make sure that your insurance company accepts this.
  • If you are unable to get your medication GF, ask about having it prepared by a compounding pharmacy. They can make the medication without gluten as a binder/filler. 2

The good news is that finding out if your medication is GF might get easier in the future. A bill has been introduced to congress called The Gluten in Medicine Disclosure Act of 2019. If passed, pharmaceutical companies will have to disclose all ingredients including gluten on the label. Find out how you can support the bill here:

https://nationalceliac.org/blog/email-newsletters/gluten-in-medication-disclosure-act-upate/

Learn more about gluten in medications:

FDA and gluten in medications: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/ensuringsafeuseofmedicine/ucm410373.htm

Check out glutenfreedrugs.com which is maintained by a pharmacist and includes lists of medications and their GF status: www.glutenfreedrugs.com

For more information on compounding pharmacies/pharmacists: https://www.iacprx.org/default.aspx

References:

  1. US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Medications and Gluten. FDA Website. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/ensuringsafeuseofmedicine/ucm410373.htm . Updated December 12, 2017. Accessed December 10, 2018.
  1. National Celiac Association. Gluten-Free, Off to A Fresh Start. Presentation. May 4, 2018.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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