It’s important for food allergy families to be aware of the potential for food allergens contained as inactive ingredients (aka “excipient ingredients”) in prescription and over-the-counter medications.
We’ve talked before about the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004, which requires food manufacturers to clearly label the presence of the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat). This means that the ingredient list must either use the common name of the allergen it contains (e.g. wheat flour), list the allergen name in parenthesis (e.g. flour (wheat)) or declare the allergen after the ingredient list (e.g. “Contains wheat”). Although FALCPA also applies to dietary supplements and vitamins, it does not apply to prescription and over-the-counter medications. This can make it more difficult to detect a given allergen in the medication’s ingredient list.
If your child has severe food allergies, always consult with the doctor or pharmacist about whether or not a given medication is safe for your little one and when in doubt, call the manufacturer to check the source of the ingredients. If your child needs a medication that has an ingredient that your child is allergic to, your pharmacist or doctor may be able to find another version of the drug that is free of that ingredient. If not, you may be able to get the medication through a compounding pharmacy.
Another important thing to remember is that brand name and generic drugs may have different ingredients so you should never assume one is safe because the other is. If your child is switched from a brand name drug to a generic drug (or vice versa), it is still necessary to check for allergens since the inactive ingredients may vary from one version to the other. Kids with Food Allergies has a great guide to ingredient differences between generic and brand name drugs.
Have any of you experienced an allergic reaction due to a hidden food allergen in medication? Were you able to find an allergy-safe version? What tips or advice would you offer other parents?