Hundreds of prescription medications and hundreds if not thousands of over-the-counter medications contain lactose as an inactive ingredient. Lactose has little taste, but some find it mildly sweet. No one is allergic to it or suffers from side effects. It is a cheap by-product of cheese production. In short, it's nearly the ideal bulk filler for a pill.
Of course, there's the tiny drawback that if you can't digest lactose, you may get symptoms ranging from gas and bloating to diarrhea. The flip side of this is that the amount of lactose in any one pill is so small that only the rarest of extremely sensitive individuals should be affected by lactose intolerance symptoms generated by a single pill.
Even that is not sufficient for those who try to avoid all milk products for whatever reason. Although you should be able to find a lactose-free alternative for most medications, this is not always possible, and often expensive or inconvenient.
What to do? Try a compounding pharmacist.
I was reminded of them by this article on ClickOnDetroit.com.
It's that level of dedication that brings customers facing a wide variety of medical challenges to [Kenny] Walkup's store. His is a compounding pharmacy. That means each prescription is prepared specifically for an individual patient, tailored to meet their medical needs and taste preferences.
"Today's modern drugs fit for a lot of people, but there are people that they just don't work for, whether it's a lactose intolerance, or an allergy to a drug or a color," Walkup said.
Compounding is part of medical history. In earlier days, pharmacists made their own pills in their own stores from basic ingredients. They "compounded" them, meaning literally "To produce or create by combining two or more ingredients or parts." Even a few decades ago, 60% of prescription items were compounded. Today only about 1% are.
That means compounding pharmacies are rarer than the regular pharmacies found in every drug store, supermarket, and discounter. Even so, you should be able to find one near you. I can't guarantee that every medication can be made or made lactose-free by every compounding pharmacist, but if it's important to you, seek one out to talk to.
There seem to be two major trade organizations.
The Professional Compounding Centers of America (PCCA) has more than 3500 members, many of them outside American in Canada, Australia, Europe and New Zealand. To find a compounding pharmacist close to you, call them at 1-800-331-2498 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists (IACP) represents more than "1,800 pharmacists, physicians, technicians and patients." Go to their website to access their Compounding Pharmacist Locator.