You would think that given the prevalence of celiac disease, and that it is a known allergen, that medications that contain gluten would need to somehow label that fact. You’d think. You’d be wrong.
As far as I can tell, this is a problem in the US. I don’t think it is nearly the same problem in other countries where medications are better regulated. I find it interesting (and sad) that medications carry less regulation about labelling gluten than food does.
This was written back in 2013, but as far as I’m able to tell, nothing has changed since then:
To be certain a drug does not contain gluten patients with CD, non-celiac gluten sensitivities, or wheat allergies must make multiple phone calls, perform Internet searches, and/or have the pharmacist review the package insert with them. At least most of us are able to do those things. ~ Whitney Caudill, Huffington Post Blog
The issue with prescription medications in the US is amplified by the fact that each generic version of a given medication can include different fillers (some of which may or may not contain gluten), and pharmacies can change which generic the stock at any given time. There is no direct way for anyone in the chain of custody of a prescription medication to guarantee that it does not contain gluten. Ugg.
I’m not an American, but I live in the US. I get all my medical care in the US. This means that I need to deal with the issue of my medications possibly containing gluten.
There is, however, legislation currently in the works to make testing for and labelling of gluten in medication mandatory. The folks at the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) have endorsed the “Gluten in Medicine Identification Act“. This article from CDF recently crossed my stream “CDF Joins with Representatives Tim Ryan and Nita Lowey in Introducing the Gluten in Medicine Disclosure Act of 2015“. I’m glad to see this is being re-introduced to congress, and I have some hope that it makes it through this time! The folks at CDF have created a nice form to help you send a letter to your representative to let them know that you support the “Gluten in Medicine Disclosure Act of 2015“. Please if you are an American, I ask that you support this important legislation.
And now, as someone who is taking multiple medications as a result of breast cancer treatment and other health ailments, I must now go and look up who is manufacturing each of my medications, and then contact each of them, to ensure that the medications I currently take do not include gluten.
Then I need to go look at all the supplements I take (not too many, but a few because celiac disease means that my body isn’t absorbing all nutrients properly), and validate that they do not contain gluten. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is even less regulated that either the food or drug industry. I came across this article, which talks about how 50% of the probiotics labelled as “gluten free” contained more gluten than was safe for someone with celiac disease. In some ways I’m not completely surprised. I’ve tried taking probiotic pills before and have found that they did nothing to my stomach (or made it worse). I now understand why that might be!
To make my life a little easier, I’m going to buy my vitamins and supplements from the Celiac Disease Foundation’s Gluten-Free Marketplace. I’m going to trust that the things they have on their site are, indeed, gluten-free.