Many people turn to over-the-counter medications to heal or soothe their symptoms, but is this always the end-result? Ideally, people would take medicine, and within minutes to an hour, their symptoms should feel some relief. While this might be the case for a few people, this is not true for others.
In most medicines, the amount of an active ingredient in the medication is much smaller than the amount we actually consume. Additional (inactive) ingredients are used to bulk up the dose to ensure a safe and correct dosage of the active ingredients. These inactive ingredients can include fillers and dyes that may cause uncomfortable side effects.
Anyone with known food allergies should also pay attention to the inactive ingredients in their medicines. It may not be the medicine (active ingredient) itself that causes uncomfortable effects at all.
Here are some of the most commonly used fillers you can expect to find in many OTC medications.
Fillers and Bulk Substances
The amount of an active ingredient contained in an OTC medication is often so small that bulk materials are added to the dose to make it a reasonable size. Bulk materials also help during the processing and manufacturing of the medication. Fillers help to make the final product durable. The most common fillers include ingredients such as starch, calcium salts, sugars, lactose, and gluten. Lactose is a commonly used ingredient that can cause intolerance in some instances. Although the amount of lactose may be small, it can still lead to uncomfortable side effects for those who are allergic or extremely sensitive.
Coatings and Disintegrates
A variety of ingredients enables the dosage to dissolve consistently. Disintegrates are used to break up the drug during consumption. Depending on the formulation, some products dissolve in stomach acid and others can be absorbed under the tongue or in saliva. Some of the most common disintegrating substances used in OTC medications include alginic acid, microcrystalline cellulose and a variety of starches.
In addition to disintegrates, coatings keep the product in its consumable form, so it remains unaffected by light, oxygen or moisture. The most commonly used coatings are gluten, shellac, and gelatin. Some OTC medications use a combination of disintegrates and coatings, making it possible for the product to dissolve later as it passes through the small intestine. As you may know, some medications suggest that you should not chew the medicine before swallowing. This recommendation is because of the acid-resistant coating, most commonly known as cellulose acetate phthalate, would protect the active ingredient from being destroyed before digestion.
Sweeteners exist in most liquid and children’s medication. This ingredient is to make the medicine more palatable so it will be easier for the patient to take the dose. Sweeteners are present in quite a few OTC medications, but they are most known to be present in liquid medications. These sweeteners include sugars, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup.
Artificial dyes are another inactive ingredient that is not only used in children’s medication but also some adult medications, such as laxatives. According to a study from MIT, chemical dyes are found in approximately 33% of all oral solid dosage medications. Some dyes, like tartrazine, can cause severe allergic or adverse reactions in sensitive populations.
Just like any other product that holds shelf life, over the counter medications often contain preservatives to ensure the product remains sterile and safe to consume. For example, benzalkonium is a popular preservative found in many OTC medications, including eye drops and nasal saline sprays.
The Importance of Knowing What Is in OTC Medication
David Johnson and Max Spielberg, founders of Genexa, were shocked by the number of potentially harmful inactive ingredients they found in common children’s OTC medicines. They found that some of the most popular OTC medications in the market included nasty chemicals that included parabens, petroleum, artificial preservatives, and common allergens.
At Genexa, we wanted to create a product that was safe for children to take. Rather than including potentially harmful inactive ingredients in our medications, we use cleaner ingredients such as organic rice bran extract and organic tapioca dextrose.
Browse our product page to learn more about our line of cleaner, safer, healthier OTC medications for the whole family.