Medications often fly under the radar when it comes to dietary restrictions. As a result, people who are following specific diets for religious or ethical considerations may wish to review their drugs to make sure they conform. For example, desiccated thyroid (Armour, Westhroid) is inappropriate for both kosher and halal diets because it is derived from pigs. Obviously, it would also be off-limits for a vegan. What medicines are permissible in a vegan diet?

Medication That Fits on a Vegan Diet:

Q. I’ve followed a vegan diet for many years. Recently I realized the medication I take is not vegan.

I’m looking for a vegan clozapine and Depakote. Do you have any idea where I could find them?

A. Because vegans avoid all products derived from animals, they may have a hard time with many medications. Capsules are frequently made of gelatin, a product of cattle and pigs.

Watch Out for Heparin or Premarin:

Occasionally a drug is an animal product itself, such as the anti-clotting injection heparin or the female hormone product Premarin. It is not clear that your epilepsy medicine divalproex sodium (Depakote) contains any animal-derived ingredients.

Clozapine, on the other hand, contains milk sugar (lactose) and magnesium stearate, both animal based. To find an alternative, you’ll need to ask your pharmacist to call the manufacturer and ask whether the substitute under consideration  contains ingredients from animals. This may require considerable cooperation between your epilepsy doctor and the pharmacist.

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