article icon

Lactose in medicines explained

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Doctor’s advice

Why do medications often contain lactose?

Many medications in tablet and capsule form often contain lactose as a carrier ingredient due to its desirable properties in manufacturing. It allows the pills to be formed and the powder mixture to distribute the active ingredient equally. Lactose is also a natural substance that can be ingested safely. Individuals who are lactose intolerant, however, have trouble digesting lactose and can suffer from uncomfortable side effects such as bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nausea.

How much lactose do medications contain?

Individuals vary in the severity of their lactose intolerance.
Studies have shown that many lactose-intolerant individuals can ingest 12g of lactose daily without any side effects. The daily dose of many medications is less than 2g of lactose a day. So, unless an individual is highly intolerant and suffers from even the smallest amount of lactose intolerance or takes many different medications daily, the lactose found in many medicines is insignificant.

Lactose-free medication

Lactose is often found in tablets, dry powder inhalation and even some liquid products, but there are lactose-free formulations. Some medicines may not have a lactose-free product available, so if it is unavoidable, other medication alternatives or a special manufacturer may need to be supplied in extreme circumstances.

You can check with your pharmacist to see if there are lactose-free products available.

Healthwords pharmacists advice

Unless lactose intolerance is severe and lactose needs to be avoided altogether, medication with lactose is often safe to take with limited to no side effects. Lifestyle factors and careful diet control can help, as certain meals have identical amounts of lactose. Alternative products may be available but hard to guarantee, or source and special products are expensive and unlicensed. Lactase aid pills can help reduce the effects of lactose intolerance.

Was this helpful?

Was this helpful?

This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
App Store
Google Play
Piff tick
Version 2.26.1
© 2024 Healthwords Ltd. All Rights Reserved