Is my medication Gluten Free?

If you have coeliac disease or are allergic to gluten, anything being ingested into your body should be checked for gluten.  This includes foods, drinks, vitamins and medicines.  Often when we are sick or worried, it can be hard to work out which medicines will make the situation worse.  Pain relief, vitamins, fibre drinks and prescribed medications can all cause concern, but legally all should be nonambiguous on the presence or absence of gluten.

In Australia, the rules relating to food allergen declarations are set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, but the rules for medications are set by the Therapeutic Goods Administration; a regulatory authority of the Australian Department of Health.  Amongst it’s many responsibilities, is the regulation of information printed on or inside the packaging of medicines in Australia. This includes prescription, non prescription and complementary medicines; everything from hospital supplied drugs through to vitamin tablets and tonics you may get at a supermarket.  

The TGA requires that all medications declare the inclusion of any ingredient derived from gluten.  They use the limit of 20ppm as the standard.  The 20ppm limit is greater than that used for food labelling, but medicines are generally consumed in smaller quantities than foods, so this limit is considered acceptable by Coeliac Australia.

To discover if your drugs contain gluten, it’s now as simple as checking the label, just as you would with food.  Gluten can’t legally be hidden.  Examine both the packaging and Consumer Medicines Information leaflet included with prescription drugs.  If gluten or wheat starch aren’t mentioned, then the medication must legally be gluten free.

Always remember to recheck packaging every time as formulations change, and to check generic versions as well.

“No added gluten” can be confusing on some labels.   Due to the legal need to declare gluten as an ingredient, this is now more a marketing claim on medicines. This is different to food labels where it may be considered as a warning of potential cross contamination, and therefore can create confusion. 

If you are at all unsure about your medication ingredients, consult the doctor who is prescribing it, the dispensing pharmacist or call 1300 MEDICINE in Australia.  1300 MEDICINE staff give advice on both prescription and over the counter medicines.  1300 MEDICINE is staffed by experienced nurses and pharmacists during business hours.  It is not for emergencies, medical advice or second opinions.

So now that you know what to do with medications, check out our advice on label reading as well.  Now is always a good time for a refresher on how to read labels.  I’m confused! What should the label say? – GF Pantry

For the full spread of our gluten free tips, head back to our blog page and stay healthy.