Even a cursory glance at vegan forums on social media you'll hear the same questions time and again. "Is this medicine vegan?" "Do vegan medications exist?" "Do I have to take meds with animal-derived ingredients?" It is a frustrating, difficult conundrum to navigate. Vegans are often faced with the dilemma of taking their potentially life-saving medications or stick to their morals and ethics. According to a survey conducted by the VeganMed team, "20.7% of the responders elected to not take an important cholesterol-lowering drug, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) simply because it had animal-derived ingredients. In another survey of 500 participants, 43.2% of them elected to not take a product with animal ingredients without alternates available."
That brings us back to our initial question: What drugs are vegan? The definition of veganism from the Vegan Society states, "Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." Medications are typically tested on animals to meet safety requirements for drug approval. As such, most medications cannot be vegan, but they can be animal-free.
Many drugs contain animal-derived ingredients and need better labeling. In a study of 100 patients, 84% reported not knowing that several medications contained ingredients derived from animal sources. Alternatives usually exist for these medications, be it a different product or through compounding, but these alternatives need to be widely known, labeled, and distributed.
As we discussed in "Vegan Certified or Vegan Verified?", there are two ways that a consumer can confirm if a medicine contains animal-derived ingredients: company verification or third-party certification. Company verification requires an inherent trust when a company claims their products do not contain animal-derived ingredients. Certified products are emblazoned with an emblem declaring that a non-biased, third-party double-checked the products and they do not contain animal ingredients. Now each certification is a bit different. Some certifications double-check ingredient lists while others use laboratory testing. It's a good idea to research the different certifications.
“Certified Animal-Free” is a certification program offered by VeganMed, Inc. Currently, “Certified Animal-Free” is intended to certify medications, supplements, and cosmetics as not having any ingredients of animal origin. This certification sets the highest quality standard in the industry as it 1) incorporates lab testing to detect animal-derived ingredients and 2) provides independent verification of the individual ingredients in a product. The certification program addresses the needs of many social and religious cultures such as veganism, vegetarianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and also of those that embrace an animal cruelty-free world.
VeganMed envisions a future with transparent labeling and easily available animal-free alternatives to medication. Animal-free medication should not be an outlier, but mainstream. We hope that through our educational efforts, outreach to manufacturers, and animal-free certification, we can make steps towards our vision of a world where medications and supplements are completely free from animal-derived ingredients.
Disclaimer: The product and/or medical information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product.
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Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!
If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!