Most people never think about the “inactive” ingredients in their pills. Many medications have far more fillers (excipients) than active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). One of the inactive substances that is frequently included is milk sugar (lactose). You have no doubt heard of “sugar pills.” Most doctors and pharmacists think of them as placebos. For many people, though, pills containing lactose are not inactive or benign!
Inactive Ingredients Cause Flatulence:
Q. You recently wrote about foods that cause flatulence. Folks should know that many pills contain lactose as a filler.
Even though it may be a tiny amount in each pill, for the lactose intolerant this is a repeated small insult to the digestive tract. This can cause gas, bloating, cramping and diarrhea.
I do not understand why lactose is still used when so many adults cannot digest it. Some of my prescriptions are not available without lactose. Consequently, I take a lactase enzyme pill every day just to counteract hidden lactose.
I’ve written to the FDA to get this filler out of our drugs. So far, I’ve had no response.
Pills Containing Lactose as an Excipient:
A. Lactose (milk sugar) is indeed a filler in many medications. Manufacturers like to use it because it is readily available and helps them get active ingredients into pills that are the right size and shape.
Take the popular cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor (simvastatin). There are a dozen inactive ingredients:
ASCORBIC ACID (UNII: PQ6CK8PD0R)
BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (UNII: REK4960K2U)
CITRIC ACID MONOHYDRATE (UNII: 2968PHW8QP)
HYDROXYPROPYL CELLULOSE (1600000 WAMW) (UNII: RFW2ET671P)
HYPROMELLOSE 2910 (6 MPA.S) (UNII: 0WZ8WG20P6)
FERRIC OXIDE RED (UNII: 1K09F3G675)
LACTOSE, UNSPECIFIED FORM (UNII: J2B2A4N98G)
MAGNESIUM STEARATE (UNII: 70097M6I30)
MICROCRYSTALLINE CELLULOSE (UNII: OP1R32D61U)
STARCH, CORN (UNII: O8232NY3SJ)
TALC (UNII: 7SEV7J4R1U)
TITANIUM DIOXIDE (UNII: 15FIX9V2JP)
It’s not just prescription drugs. There are many OTC pills containing lactose. It’s not something you will always find on the label.
To find out if a medicine contains lactose, check the DailyMed website. Searching any medication will provide information on inactive ingredients.