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Vegan Medication

by Jason
(Nottingham, England)

How Do I Find Vegan Medication?

I'm vegan and have been since last December. Thankfully, touch wood, I haven't been ill within this time but what happens when I do fall ill, visit the doctor and he says I need a prescription? I'll obviously tell him that I'm vegan but is he really going to be able to prescribe me with an animal friendly prescription for my illness? Are there vegan tablets and vegan medicines out there for us?

Similar Question from Manon:
I'm a vegan, or at least I try really hard to be one. I have all of the food, make-up, household items, etc., taken care of. However, I have major depressive disorder, in which I NEED to take a certain medication for. I have been suicidal in the past, but since I've been taking this medication (prozac, fluoxetine) I've been able to be myself again. From what I have researched the medicine has gelatin and is tested on animals. I'm in a really sticky situation now because I want to be 100% vegan, if that is at all possible, but I need my medication in order to keep my life. I don't know what to do. I don't want to be a vegetarian, but I feel like there's no other way. Would you consider me a vegetarian because I take this medication? I still consider myself a vegan, because I have devoted myself to helping animals and changing my life to veganism. Please help.

Thank you so much!

Great question! To start, congratulations on changing your lifestyle this year, and I'm so glad you're reaping one of the huge benefits of veganism-- rarely getting common illnesses. I'm glad you're planning ahead for a time when you might need a vegan medication.

A lot is going to depend on your doctor and his/her awareness of veganism, as well as openness to helping you follow your lifestyle. Not all doctors are going to be completely aware of what exact ingredients are in the medications they prescribe. But, you should definitely ask him/her. You could also bring a list of non-vegan ingredients that you are looking to avoid and ask the doctor for his/her help in finding a vegan medication that is suitable for you. The other issue you are going to deal with is medicines that are tested on animals.

At some point, you might have to choose to draw a line beyond which you are unwilling to go. For instance, you might decide that if you are on your deathbed, you're not going to ask someone to specify the type of medicine they use to save your life.

As a vegan, it's important to do the best you can do and not beat yourself up for the things in your life that do not exactly follow your principles. You must control the things you can control, and if you have no other choice, you might end up with a non-vegan medication. However, this is all personal choice and you have to draw that line yourself, according to your own beliefs. But, you should never make yourself sick just to prove a point-- what good can you do as an animal rights activist if you're dead?

In more normal situations, you might decide not to take medicines that are commonly prescribed for common illnesses, and rather choose more holistic methods of improving your overall health. For most of those common illnesses, you can find suitable vegan medication at health food stores that are not tested on animals.

Here are some common animal ingredients in medications that you can find a way to avoid:

  • Adrenaline
  • Blood
  • Cortisone or Corticosteroids
  • Duodendum
  • Gelatin is in most gel capsules, but there are vegetarian capsules. If your medicine is not available in a vegetarian capsule, you could try prying open the capsule and simply taking the medicine that is inside it (don't do this for time-released pills as they are meant to be distributed throughout the body slowly)
  • Glycerin or Glycerol (in capsules)
  • Lactose
  • Lanolin or Lanolin Acids
  • Lecithin or Choline Bitartrate
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Stearic Acid or Stearyl Alcohol or Stearols

Hope that helps with finding vegan medication!

Comments for Vegan Medication

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by: Anonymous

How can you be a vegan or vegetarian if you are actively using animal products or buying things that have been tested on animals???
It is hard to do but I feel that if the person does not wear animal skins, does not buy products tested on animals (unless it is something you need to such as prescription meds),you really cannot be a vegan or vegetarian otherwise.
If you do not eat meat but rock leather
Buy make up, house hold cleaners, perfume, etc. and it is not cruelty free (download the cruelty cutter app. It is great!)
Do not try your best to not use anything tested on or made of animals,
You are not a vegan or vegetarian.
Prescriptions are the one thing where you have a pass. You can keep living. Take your meds. It is natural to feel bad that they were tested on animals and have animal products. If you can change your meds. situation in a safe way, do it. But next time you feel all bummed out about taking that pill you need to be well, look at your pets, kids, friends, family members and imagine what they would say and feel if you did not take it and were not able to be there with them because of it. You will feel better.
And if you want medicine to be free of these abuses, sign petitions, do your research etc. It is a tough road we are on but we are the ones who can change it someday.
Love yourself. Love animals.

Try a compounding pharmacy / chemist
by: Tonic

I am vegan and am currently reluctantly searching for a vegan acid reducer due to hiatal hernia-induced GERD (have tried all the lifestyle modification and natural remedies without much success). Currently a pharmacist / chemist is looking into finding one for me (magnesium stearate is a commonly added ingredient and it can be difficult to determine its source even contacting the manufacturer) and waiting to hear back from 2 manufacturers. I used to take Ibuprofen and had it made up at a compounding pharmacy in veg capsules with a veg excipient. Have you talked to a pharmacist about this possibility for your meds? Sometimes you can also find liquid versions of meds that they use in hospitals for people who can't swallow pills that have very different non-medicinal ingredients from the tablet/pill form - ask your MD. If anyone has seen articles about this important and under-addressed topic, please post the links!

Impossible to avoid animal products entirely
by: Lydia

Avoiding medication containing animal products when possible is not always easy and not always advisable. I take medication that I can't live without. I tried to stop taking it and started to see a major decline in physical and mental functioning.

And unfortunately many, many common everyday objects are manufactured with animal products: products made out of plastic, rubber, glue, paint,... It would be nearly impossible to avoid all animal products without living completely isolated with only products you make yourself or have confirmed are animal free.

I don't think taking necessary medication or having a computer or other objects made using animal products makes anyone less of a vegan.

Medication animal testing
by: Anonymous

What everyone is failing to talk about is that ALL prescription, and many non-prescription/over-the-counter, medications in the USA MUST be tested on animals in order to gain FDA approval to go to market to the public. So, if you take ANY prescription medication purchased in the USA, it definitely was tested on animals. If you want to change this, there are many organizations (Physicians for Responsible Medicine, PETA, etc.) that are fighting to change this ridiculous rule. Animals as killed and suffering needlessly because it has been proven many times that animals and humans DO NOT react the same way to chemicals, medicines, etc. Example is Cisapride/Propulsid which had to be taken off the human market b/c of deaths from a cardiac side effects but it is still available and safe to use on animals. There are many non-animal means available to test drugs.

by: Anonymous

Vegan with asthma here. I didn't know that corticosteroid is not vegan because I read somewhere that it's plant-based. However, I just got prescribed an accuhaler, and it's written in the label that it contains milk protein. I began searching for the possibility of vegan alternative, and came across this page, and found out that corticosteroid is not vegan. Bummer.
I'm wondering if I still can call myself a vegan if I took that medicine. :(

opening capsules?
by: Anonymous

I am also a vegan struggling with depression, and I have also been prescribed these pills. I am trying to get off prozac for good.
In my opinion, the advice to discard the gelatin capsule is just ridiculous. That is like buying clothes with leather details, ripping the leather off and calling it vegan. The animals HAVE ALREADY BEEN KILLED! They will not have suffered less because their remains end up in the bin rather than in your stomach. Get a grip, folks.

Prozac for vegans
by: Anonymous

I take prozac, and my dosage only comes in capsules which are made of animal gelatin. I open the capsules, and sprinkle them in apple sauce or coconut yogurt or rice dream. Or I pour the capsule contents into a veggie capsule. You can get vegetarian capsules at health food stores. I've been vegan for many years, and ask doctors to prescribe something in vegan tablets or in capsules that I can open. I've always found some way to take the meds I need and also stay vegan.

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