for .bbc.co.uk on March 15, 2012
People who choose not to eat animal products may be unaware that common medicines could contain them, a study suggests.
Many tablets and liquid medicines use gelatin, derived from animal bones or skin.
A survey in the Postgraduate Medical Journal shows a quarter of patients are unknowingly prescribed drugs containing gelatin contrary to their beliefs.
The report authors say clearer drug labelling is needed.
A spokesman for the ABPI, which represents the pharmaceutical industry in the UK, said that European Union legislation required the disclosure of all ingredients in the leaflet accompanying the drugs.
He added: "Patients are able to check if a product contains a material which may cause them concern. If patients are unsure if an ingredient is derived from animals they can seek the advice of their pharmacist or contact the company manufacturing the product.
"There is a general trend for manufacturers to move away from the use of animal derivatives in medicines but there remain occasions where the nature of the product, or quality or safety issues, preclude the effective use of non-animal-derived ingredients."
There are many ingredients in tablets, capsules and other medicines which, while usually not part of the active treatment, help hold it together or thicken liquids.
Gelatin is commonly used, particularly in generic medicines - versions of a drug mass-produced more cheaply once the initial patent has expired.
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17182625