Is There Hidden Gluten In Your Medication?
“How to identify gluten in medications.” This is a common concern and major question for many trying to navigate their celiac or gluten sensitivity issues. In this weeks Gluten Free Warrior Podcast, I interview clinical pharmacist, Steve Plogstead of www.GlutenFreeDrugs.com. In this interview we discuss all of the ins and outs of this issue. Enjoy! And as always, please leave us your comments and feedback below.
Some Important Take Aways From This Interview:
- Drug companies often times give misleading answers about gluten for fear of litigation.
- Many medications contain hidden forms of gluten
- Many medications contain grain based fillers derived from corn
- Corn in medications can also be a problem for those with gluten sensitivity issues.
- Medications sometimes change filler ingredients.
How to Identify Gluten in Medications
When considering how to identify gluten in medication, always keep in mind that reading the drug label inactive ingredient list might hold the answer to the question. Because the label may not say gluten directly, you will want to know the terms that gluten and grains can go by. You can access a comprehensive list of these terms here <<==
It is also important that you have a conversation with both your doctor and pharmacist. Together, they may be able to come up with a different solution without exposing you to gluten. It is also important to remember that many medications can also disrupt the function of the GI tract creating symptoms that impact digestion, contribute to leaky gut, cause nutritional deficiencies, and even mimic celiac disease.
Don’t want to listen to the podcast? Check out the transcript below:
Dr. O: This is Dr. Osborne with Gluten Free Society. I have a very special interview for all of you in Gluten Free World. Today we’re going to be talking with Steve, he’s a pharmacist. I’m going to turn it over to you and let you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are and what you’re up to.
My name is Steve Plogstead. My full-time job is as a clinical pharmacist at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. It’s called Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I’ve been there for a little over 20 years. Part of my coverage is nutrition for pediatric patients. I also do gastroenterology on the side as my clinical activities. Somewhere in 1995 my practitioner who is an expert in Celiac Disease asked me to give a talk to her local support group. There were about 75 patents at that time. They asked me to talk about gluten medications. I knew very little about gluten or Celiac Disease back in those days. Again, this is 1995 and I discovered that the most recent article about gluten medications was written in 1984. There was really nothing written way back then and nothing between 1984 and 1995 of any substance.
I offered my services to help these people determine if these medications had any gluten in them. As I started getting more questions I put them out using a free e-mail service like Gmail. A few years later I purchased my own website called Gluten Free Drugs which I run just from home or my office depending on what time I have to do that. That is how I got started in this business. Ever since that I’m just posting all my questions and answers online as I get the results.
Dr. O: You just spend a lot of time communicating with a lot of different pharmaceutical companies trying to discern hidden origins or hidden potential gluten and then sharing that information with people who are trying to follow a gluten free diet?
Steve: That is correct. Most of the information I have online I actually obtained myself. I’m lucky to have pharmacy students that I mentor every month. I put them on some questions as well. Other people who have called drug companies will send their information to my gluten free website and I’ll post their interaction with the drug companies. It’s a combination of me and celiac sufferers.
Dr. O: It’s probably a really hard task. It’s ever changing. I imagine if the manufacturer changes some ingredients it’s really hard. Unless you have e-mail notifications from the manufacturer it would probably be a pretty daunting task to keep up with it 100%.
Steve: Not only that. Back in 1995 when I first started there were very few drug companies who actually understood what I was asking. As time went on I started to get some pretty definitive information from these companies. As time went on even more we had a little less truthfulness from some of the manufacturers.
I think they were worried about lawsuits and such. They started giving me less than full disclosure about the potential contamination of medication. That just got me to come up with more and more questions. With all these interactions with these drug companies, I learned a lot about what they can and can’t say. I learned more and more about the pharmaceutical manufacturing process. The patient would ask me a specific question.
They would call the drug company they would get one answer. I would call the drug company and I wouldn’t want to call it a different answer but I got a more enhanced answer. Because a lot of times the consumer doesn’t get the same drug information person or group that I do.
They get the consumer side that seems to answer the question a little differently than the professional side. With them not disclosing as much information as I would like them to I would ask very pointed questions. Sometimes almost trying to trap them into giving me an answer.
They can only give you a certain answer that their company will sponsor. I would ask more and more specific questions about it trying to find out what I needed to find out to determine the potential for contamination.
Dr. O: Wow. That’s something that I see a lot clinically as I have my patients currently. I really press them and ask them to sit down with their doctor. Their doctors don’t really seem to know. I’ve also pressed them to sit down with their pharmacist. We found that a lot of the pharmacists don’t know. I’ve asked them to call the drug companies and as you said we’ve found that the medication companies will only divulge certain quantities of information. Really it’s kind of a web to navigate. I’m real grateful that you’ve put up your information and findings online. I’m going to start directing a number of my patients and visitors to your site to try to discern and get more information.
Steve: I’m happy to. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to shoot myself in the foot but when I get questions from a consumer about something they need to know for themselves often the question that they send me is a little more complex than I can give them in an e-mail. Probably several hundred times I’ve given the consumer my private phone number. I ask them to give me a call. I’ve spend two hours on the phone with a consumer to help them get through the questions that they really need to know. Sometimes the question they’re asking isn’t what they need to know. I find it much easier to go in depth. Telling you this on a broadcast will probably cause my minutes to go up.
I’m on Eastern Standard Time so I let people know when I answer a question if we’re going to make the connection on what part of the
country I’m from so I can communicate with them. I can either do it from my home or the office. My hospital doesn’t exactly 100%
support what I do. They understand how this is a great public service so they’re very tolerant of the time I spend with Celiac Disease. I didn’t mention it before but the cost of the gluten free drugs website comes out of my own pocket. If you look there is no advertising from drug companies or from any company. I do give links to food manufacturers or other societies who are doing something…