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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Could Your Pharmacist Help Keep You Gluten-Free?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Pharmacists can help celiac patients to remain gluten-free by alerting them to possible gluten in medications, and giving them alternatives.

    Caption: Image: CC--J Brew

    Celiac.com 06/11/2018 - Untreated celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine, which can interfere with proper nutrient absorption. Most patients can recover proper nutritional absorption via vitamins and mineral therapy, according to the CDF. Avoiding gluten is key. However, many people with celiac disease may not know that their pharmacist might just be one of their best allies in the fight to avoid gluten.

    Currently, there are no rules that require drug manufacturers to disclose the source of medication ingredients. Consumers can contact the manufacturer directly with questions, and some drug companies strive for clear, helpful answers, but getting correct information can be challenging.  Many times though, an answer won't address possible cross contamination during the manufacturing process.

    This is where pharmacists can be a strong ally for patients with celiac disease. Here are a few way that pharmacists can help people with celiac disease to avoid hidden gluten in their prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.

    The first thing pharmacists can do is to check ingredients on prescription medications these patients are taking. They can also share related information to help educate patients, and to improve their choices, and speak with drug manufacturers on patients’ behalf. In addition to assisting with prescription medicines, pharmacists can offer recommendations on vitamins and supplements. 

    As with prescription drugs, both doctors and patients should do their best to review the ingredients used to manufacture vitamins and supplements, and to share this information with celiac patients.

    So, if you have celiac disease, definitely consider enlisting your pharmacist in an effort to get complete drug and supplement information. This simple tactic can help you to remain gluten-free during your course of drug treatment, however long that may last?

    Do you have a story about gluten in prescription drugs or supplements? Do you use your pharmacist to help you better understand your gluten-free drug and supplement options? Share your story with us.


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    Guest celiac disease shay


    took me from April to June to determine if my new medication was gluten free; 3 pharmacists said I should do more research, one said they did not have a contact number for their supplier and said I should look the product up on their website, after many misdirections finally found it but it only stated what it was used for no ingredients, no mention of gluten, no info on how to contact them; few days later stumbled across o number, left message, on gluten status, reply I got back was " we don't add gluten to any products; but our overseas supplies do not list ingredients" so who knows what the American public is receiving in medications? let alone gluten status?  how can this be legal??  I have yet to find a pharmacist who will guarantee gluten free; only say "checked for gluten"   Which is not confirming it is gluten free so I have invested in a devise to check this for me before using.

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    With all we know about celiac disease and why people need to be protected against cross-contamination, there is absolutely NO excuse why drug manufacturers are allowed to get away with NOT TESTING their end product.  They should be mandated to test for gluten and then label appropriately.  This is insane.  We have a pharmacist who goes over and above to check for gluten but if manufacturers themselves use disclaimers about their products, what can we trust?  I would love to become involved in a group who advocates and pushes for legislation so people don't have to get "poisoned" from the medications they are being prescribed.  Someone needs to be accountable. Pharma is getting paid a ton of money for playing with the health of those paying it!

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    I went through multiple pharmacies trying to eliminate wheat (usually flour or starch used to bulk up and bind the pill) and lactose as well, since I've lost the ability to tolerate that. Three major chain pharmacies were clueless, they each have limited distributors they can buy from. A fourth (the mail order pharmacy that my insurer uses) took a whole week but then gave me specific (NPN?) numbers for the gluten free meds they could find listed as being made. Tried to order then, only to be told by the next pharmacy rep that one was no longer in production and the other was not available from their distributor. SO, they were useless. And my insurer seemed to think that giving me drugs that contained allergens was perfectly normal and acceptable.

    Then last week I bought a vitamin supplement in Costco, looked just like the one I had been buying online, same company, same packaging. When I got it home I realize each pill was 1/2 the dose. OK, no problem, I can use them anyway. Nope. The larger dose pills had no gluten, no wheat. The exact same product, same maker, smaller dose? Contains wheat starch.

    It is IMPOSSIBLE to get the drug companies to do what the food companies were forced to do: List the allergens on the package, prominently, and TRY TO GET RID OF THEM.


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    One of the pharmacists where I go insists that the amount of gluten contained in pills could in no way cause damage.  He still said this even after I stressed it was celiac disease.  The others there say to call the company.  The company says they don't add any gluten, but they don't know about their suppliers.  This should be illegal!  Why do we have better standards for the food industry?

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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