Pharmaceutical Products and Animal Ingredients

Although we should all avoid using pharmaceutical products in favor of more natural approaches to health, it may, on occasion, be advisable or even necessary to take a pharmaceutical product.

Putting aside other problems with these products, they often are not vegan in that they contain various animal products as “inactive” ingredients. For example, many tablets contain stearates or glycerin, which often come from animal sources, or lactose, which is a milk derivative. And standard capsules are, of course, made of gelatin.

I often hear vegans say that in such circumstances, they have no choice but to depart from their vegan principles and take medicines that contain animal products. This is not true. Even in situations in which a pharmaceutical product may be required, it is not necessary to use a product that contains animal ingredients.

There are, in most places, including smaller cities and towns, “compounding pharmacies.” These pharmacies exist primarily to provide prescription medicines that are not available commercially. For example, some elderly people have difficulty in taking separate medications so a compounding pharmacy can combine their medications in one capsule to facilitate compliance. Some people are allergic to the dyes, binders, and fillers in conventional medicines and some people can or strongly prefer to take medicine only in a liquid form.

A compounding pharmacy is the perfect place to help vegans avoid animal ingredients even when they need to take a pharmaceutical product. The compounding pharmacist can obtain the active ingredient and use non-animal fillers and binders, all in a vegan capsule. The animal testing involved in the pharmaceutical industry which is, of course, morally unjustifiable, is a different question, but the compounding pharmacist can at least ensure that the end product does not contain animal ingredients.

Not only can the compounding pharmacist prepare a vegan prescription medicine for you, she can also prepare a vegan alternative to “over-the-counter” preparations. So if too much blogging has resulted in tendonitis, and exercise, acupuncture, and ice have not worked, you can get ibuprofen in vegan form!

Gary L. Francione
© 2007 Gary L. Francione