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Modern pharmaceutical drugs were a remarkable breakthrough in the prevention and cure of a wide range of diseases. But their development did not come without challenges. For instance, while drug fillers and dyes were supposed to be inactive, increased scrutiny of their ingredients has found some to be biologically active.
Read on to find out the harms caused by fillers and dyes in drugs and the solution we offer through compounding medication.
What are Fillers in Drugs?
Drug fillers are inert substances typically combined with the active ingredients during the manufacturing process to make the drug stable and sufficiently large for easy intake. Take it as an inactive ingredient container that solely carries the active ingredient of a particular medicine.
The filler ingredients do not contain medicinal value. Common fillers include lactose, starch, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, silicon dioxide, polyethylene glycol, and calcium salts. They are typically found in capsule and tablet forms of dosage.
What are Dyes in Drugs?
Dyes are a type of inactive ingredient responsible for giving drugs their color. They can either be synthetic chemical compounds or natural pigment extracts. These coloring agents are dissolved in the drug formulations to produce the intended color.
Like fillers, dyes are inactive ingredients with no therapeutical effect on the patient
Other Common Excipients in Prescription and over-the-counter Medications
It is worth noting that fillers and dyes are classified under the broad category of pharmaceutical excipients. Excipients are any non-therapeutical inactive ingredients manufacturers add to drugs to enhance their effectiveness. Apart from fillers and dyes, other common categories of excipients include binders, diluents, disintegrants, glidants, lubricants, preservatives, flavoring agents, sweeteners, surfactants, and solvents.
Nearly all modern commercially produced drugs contain some inactive ingredient that serves different purposes. But the good news is that you do not have to buy those. Compounding pharmacies such as Fort Worth Pharmacy have specialists who can produce the same medication without the harmful excipients. Hence, you do not have to worry about developing an allergic reaction or lactose intolerance.
Why are Fillers and Dyes Used in Medicine Tablets?
Any sane person will be curious to know why inactive ingredients are present in medications despite being untherapeutic.
Well, most tablets and capsules require tiny quantities of active ingredients to serve their therapeutic functions. This small size is impractical for drug handling and ingestion by patients.
Thus, the primary reason for using fillers is to help pharmaceutical companies produce sizable drugs when the active ingredients required are in small measures. Fillers are made up of inactive substances since they do not contribute to the medication purpose of the drug. Most pills contain about 75 percent inactive ingredients and only about 25 percent active.
Chemical dyes are also used in the manufacturing process of drugs for several reasons. First, they color the drug giving it a palatable look that increases acceptability, especially among children.
Additionally, coloring plays a significant role in helping patients identify different pharmaceutical products and preventing counterfeiting. Furthermore, the color coatings increase their stability during transportation and storage for light-sensitive medications.
The Problem with Fillers and Dyes
When we seek prescription medications from a doctor, we are only interested in the effects of the medicine’s active ingredients. The same applies when obtaining medications over-the-counter. Therefore, it is easy to ignore the fact that inactive ingredients could react with our bodies.
Although the fillers and dyes used in medications are intended to be inert, the reality is that most of them do not hold up to this ideal. Many are known to be harmful to patients.
For instance, lactose contained in fillers may trigger side effects in lactose-intolerant patients. Similarly, Tartrazine (Yellow #5), commonly used in drugs and artificial food colors, is a significant trigger of hyperactivity in children.
So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned several chemical compounds used as dyes in medications. However, some other ingredients that have gotten approval by the FDA still have toxic properties. This makes compounding pharmacies safer for obtaining medication, especially for hypersensitive patients.
Can Dyes and Fillers Cause Allergic Reactions?
Dyes and fillers can potentially cause severe allergic reactions in some patients. The number of patients complaining about allergic reactions to coloring agents in food and drugs is growing daily.
Children are particularly more vulnerable to allergies to synthetic dyes than adults. Even though synthetic dyes are heavily controlled, those available, such as Sunset Yellow, are known to cause allergic reactions in some people.
Fillers, too, contain allergy-causing compounds like magnesium stearate, wheat starch, calcium salts, and milk protein. Magnesium stearate is notorious for causing allergies by suppressing immune function. Gluten found in wheat starch causes adverse reactions in patients with celiac disease. In severe cases, the patient may develop symptoms such as fever, rash, itching, and even anaphylactic shock.
If you experience such symptoms after taking medication, you should visit the nearest hospital for medical attention.
Difference Between Allergies and Intolerances of Excipients
Allergies and intolerances are often confused because both are mere reactions of our bodies to certain substances. However, there is a significant difference between the two.
Allergic reactions cause severe and sometimes life-threatening side effects. They come about as a response of the immune system to the excipient. Examples of allergies include gastrointestinal symptoms and breathing problems.
On the other hand, intolerances are less severe reactions causing discomfort related to the digestive tract. For example, stomach upsets and nausea. Notably, you can control intolerance by taking small amounts of the substance until you get used to it.
How to Identify Active and Inactive Ingredients in your Medications
When in doubt, you can always find the specific inactive ingredients in your medication. The list of inactive ingredients for over-the-counter medications is written on the packaging box or bottle. Prescription medications also have inactive ingredients listed on the packaging container. A pharmacist can help you identify the ingredients if you can not do it yourself.
Compounded Medication as Solution to Fillers and Dyes
We have seen that commercially available medications pose a considerable allergy and intolerance risk, especially for hypersensitive adult patients and children. This is where our compounded medication comes in handy.
Our compounded products reduce the risks of developing allergies and intolerance to medication. At Fort Worth Pharmacy, we can personalize drugs depending on the patient’s needs. We eliminate inactive ingredients like lactose and replace synthetic dyes with natural, less harmful alternatives.
Our goal? We aim to help patients safely get the particular medication found in commercial medicines without side effects.