Is maltodextrin in medications safe?

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN
Q: Is maltodextrin found in US pharmaceuticals considered safe for those with celiac disease? I am finding conflicting information.

Answer


Maltodextrin is a starch hydrolysate that is almost always made from corn in the US, but can also be made from wheat, potato or rice. However, even if maltodextrin is derived from wheat, it is generally considered safe for people with celiac disease as gluten is removed during processing and the final product will be less than 20 ppm which is the threshold for gluten-free foods (1). Note, if you have an allergy to wheat, this might be a problem.

The biggest issues with medications are starches and fillers that are not identified. Starches and fillers could be from wheat starch or wheat flour and would not safe for people with celiac disease.  

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. According to the FDA it is rare that medications do contain gluten (2). The FDA has issued a draft guidance for how gluten should be labeled on medications. However, this is voluntary and not required so you may see this statement:

“Contains no ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain (wheat, barley, or rye).” (2)

Always contact the manufacturer directly or ask your pharmacist about the inactive ingredients/fillers. Often drug manufacturers cannot guarantee their medication is gluten-free and will only say if it does or does not contain gluten ingredients.

Here is a post I previously did on medications that you might find helpful:

https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-questions/do-i-need-to-check-that-my-medication-is-gluten-free/

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

References

  1. Confusing Ingredients in the Gluten-Free Diet. https://nationalceliac.org/celiac-disease-resources/confusing-gluten-free-diet-ingredients/
  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.

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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