WHAT A PAIN
Have you ever had one of those moments where you want to throw your head back and scream at the heavens, “Why can nothing be easy?!?”
That was me in the grocery store last week. I needed to buy pain relievers because my doctor directed me to take acetaminophen. Simple enough, right?
I don’t usually take pain relievers, so it hadn’t occurred to me that this would be difficult. Which is how I ended up in the drug aisle of my grocery store for over half an hour, at closing time, phone in hand, googling every single brand of pain killer on the shelf, trying to find something gluten free.
I felt like I was on a quest for the holy grail with nothing but my stubbornness and a tiny internet screen to aid me.
LABELING PAIN RELIEVERS
I didn’t get resolution in the grocery store. I couldn’t find a gluten free pain reliever and had to leave empty handed. A few days later, when I had time to dig into the issue, I was surprised and disheartened at what I found.
Most of us probably know (and are quite grateful) that in 2013 the food and drug administration (FDA) issued a final ruling defining the term “gluten free” for food labeling and for vitamin and supplement labeling. What I learned was there is no such ruling in place for medication.
The FDA has issued draft gluten free labeling guidelines for pharmaceuticals, but it’s not binding. Companies can claim medicines are gluten free, and since that term is not codified or regulated, it doesn’t mean anything.
I would hope (as would we all) that the potentially detrimental financial and brand ramifications of misrepresenting that information would be enough incentive for these companies to be diligent and thorough in their claims.
But we’ve probably all had the experience of being glutened as a result of well-meaning ignorance. (“I made a gluten-free cookies just for you—here try one!”) *facepalm*
Well, it’s already happened. One example of this is Tylenol. Tylenol’s parent company used to claim a significant portion of their pain relievers were gluten free, but they rescinded that stance and now say they cannot confirm their products are gluten free. Again, *facepalm*.
PAIN RELIEVER OPTIONS
So gluten free labeling on medicine is a gamble…now what? Up until recently, we would either have to gamble or develop a very high pain threshold.
“I never gamble with my money, only my autoimmune disease.” It would be funny if it weren’t true, right?
There is now a third option if you can afford it–the Nima sensor. It has given me major peace of mind in these type of situations.
The following store brands have at least some of their pain relievers labeled gluten free: Up Brand (Target), Walgreens Brand, and CVS Brand. That said, please always read the label (as if you’re not already in the habit).
Some of the medicines are marked gluten free and some are not, some sizes are gluten free while others aren’t, etc. And as we celiacs know too well—things change. Just because something’s labeled gluten free one day, doesn’t mean it’ll be labeled gluten free the next day.
After a week of research and enduring significant pain because I couldn’t find a gluten free pain reliever in a timely fashion, I went to Target, bought acetaminophen and naproxen sodium, and used my Nima to test them. Both were labeled gluten free.
The naproxen sodium (generic Aleve) had gluten in it.
The acetaminophen (generic Tylenol) was gluten free.
This of course underscores the problem–medication labeling is not reliable and pharmaceutical companies have no regulatory pressure to ensure it is.
GlutenFreeDrugs.com is authored and maintained by a clinical pharmacist. The information provided isn’t the easiest to navigate, but it’s thorough.
There is also TheRubins.com, a drug manufacturers directory that lists a phone number and website for pharmaceutical companies. You’ll have to pick up the phone and ask the questions yourself, but a good chunk of the legwork is done for you. And sometimes being able to ask your own questions gets you the clearest answers.