VEGA News Item

How to Treat your Doctor when You are ill. - 23/08/2005
A question received this month prompts what must be one of a series of answers (see Vega News Item)
Hi Vega,

I have only just discovered your site. I wonder if you have any knowledge of campaigns about the use of animal products in prescription medicines. I almost feel like starting a campaign myself if my health was better. I have had a few health problems over the last couple of years and to my distress have been taking medicines with gelatine as well as other horrible stuff like Sunset Yellow colouring. All the antibiotics seem to contain gelatine in the capsule or tablet. I am supposed to take now a calcium and Vit D3 supplement as I have early osteoporosis and have searched websites to find alternatives that my doctor could prescribe but there aren’t any. I also do not like animal testing but we have no choice as it is the law.

I have sent email months ago to the Vegetarian Society, who did not reply and the Vegan Society who replied but only to say they were sorry. I really want to live an animal free life I drink soya milk and have also given up eggs. Do you have any interest in this subject? Obviously the Vegan Society and Vegetarian Society don’t. There are groups who campaign against the use of animals in testing medicines but it seems not the use of animal products in medicines. I hope you will reply if you have any suggestions where else I could look for information

We have been involved in this extension to the composition and labelling of foods (including pet-foods and foodstuffs for farm animals) since the 1950s, when the availability of vitamin B12 in various forms redoubled interest in components of preparations likely to be used by veggie, Jews, Muslims etc, as well as people with aversions generally regarded as allergies. The issue is extending further to “alternative” and “complementary” medicines and to active principles, compounds used in formulations, and form of administration (liquid or pill, for example).

Consistency is sought in descriptions of toiletries, household goods, and clothing and footwear. We are much involved in representing the veggie requirements to government agencies and manufacturers. In some instances needs for identification by patients with particular disabilities must be met, e.g. with arthritic hands, (colour) blindness, “mudde-headeness” etc have not to be allowed for. As with food, certain components may not be declared, because they are regarded as processing aids (it is argued that they will be removed or transmuted - but to what? - by the time of consumption, e.g. finings in fermented drinks, fruit juices and drinks). The formulation may be very important in effects on bioactivity and frequency and timing of administration. A branded product may become generic in various competitive forms once the originator’s patents on the active versions run out. This competition may result in augmentations that may be unnecessary or even undesirable in certain contexts, e.g. clashes with other medication and in excessive amounts- a hot topic at the moment. In general, Jews and Muslims relax their observances when medical issues are paramount.

On an animal-vegetable-mineral rating we seek to establish sources of the following.

• Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) D2 is made from yeasts, D3 from sheep’s wool, like lanolin. Methods of shearing and source, e.g. slaughterhouse, raise objections. Vitamin D is all that is often declared. D2 may be less active than D3 in humans. D3 and derivatives are mainly used in animal feeds and in veterinary medicine, as it is the more active “natural” form, especially in birds.
• Calcium (and other mineral) phosphates may be derived from bones or rocks.
• Stearates (and many composite forms) and glycerol (glyceryl) etc may be products derived from botanicals (plants) or from tallows and slaughterhouse offals. Glyceryl (glycerine) may also come from the petrochemical industry.
• Lactate, lactic acid. Should be distinguished by the prefix D-, L-, DL-, giving an indication of origin from animal sources, fermentation on sugars from plants, or by chemical synthesis.
• Gelatine. “Vegetarian” gelatines are described, but they may be made from fish. (The word vegetarian is unaptly used, as in vegetarian cheese; the usage reflects the attitudes of the very influential Jewish population in North America. Gelatine is also used to encapsulate fragile vitamins, flavourings etc. Alternative gelling agents such as carrageen, alginates, or agar are commercially available.
• Lactose, casein(ate). By-products and co-products of the dairy industry.
• Premarin, Gn RH, prostaglandins. Derived by objectionable methods, e.g. from pregnant mares’ urine. We have had published lists of synthetic alternatives in the medical press. These compounds are also added to animal feedstuffs or injected, used like HRT and the contraceptive pill to control reproduction and other effects of these substances. Thyroxine is now mostly in the synthetic form. Human insulin is a fermentation product involving GM micro-organisms.
• Vaccines. Live or attenuated, and how produced (e.g. in fertilized hen’s eggs from caged birds)? These are used with various adjustments (e.g. aluminium compounds) and preservatives (e.g. mercury compounds or antibiotics such as neomycin).

There are many drugs and preparations involved in treatments of osteoporosis and its control. I doubt if your doctor has the time to answer your queries, but you might ask him if the pharmacist could substitute with an equivalent therapeutic nearer your requirements. Some pharmacists take trouble to settle patients’ doubts. You could shop around. However you will always certainly have some compromise and have to accommodate for the sake of your health.


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