What Celiacs Need to Know about Medication


For those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, consuming even a tiny amount of gluten can trigger a reaction. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be a hidden source of gluten.

Learn the Ingredients—the first step is identifying whether or not a medication contains gluten. It's often the inactive ingredients (binders or fillers) that can be potential sources of gluten. Cross-contamination can also be an issue.

Just like with food, learning the ingredients and how to read the label is a must. Pay attention to the inactive ingredients—particularly anything with starch or just the word starch.

Some other words to look out for include: pregelatinized starch, sodium starch glycolate, dextrin or dextrate.

Check the back of the box on over-the-counter medications for ingredients. Prescription ingredients can be found in the package insert or on the manufacturer's website. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist to call the manufacturer or call yourself to confirm if a medication is safe.

Check the website Gluten-Free Drugs (, which lists many prescription and over-the-counter drugs that are gluten-free.

Consult Your Doctors—all of them. All the doctors that you see on a regular basis should know that you have celiac disease and that if medications are prescribed they have to be gluten-free. This includes your dentist (think about what they might use to clean your teeth) and any specialists.

Get to Know Your Pharmacist—let your pharmacist know that your medication cannot contain gluten—and have him put it in your file. And always fill your prescriptions at the same pharmacy.

Investigate Brand vs. Generic—the difference between a brand-name product and generic can often be in the inactive ingredients that are used, which is where gluten might show up.

Tell Your Insurance—this could help when it comes to approving brand-name medication over generic, if the generic medication contains gluten. If they know ahead of time—instead of you asking after the fact—they may make an exception and approve a brand name because it is gluten-free.