Not long ago I had a headache. It wasn’t a bad headache, but I had to be somewhere and it occurred to me that Tylenol would be really nice.
This doesn’t seem like big news. I can see you frowning at the blog now. “So take some Tylenol and get on with it already.”
I urge you to take out a bottle of Tylenol, or Motrin, or Excedrin. Now, look at the ingredients. Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are fine. Now, look closer. You’re looking for the list of “Inactive Ingredients”. This may not be on the bottle at all, you might need to find the insert or the original box. Inactive ingredients are the bits and pieces that turn powdered drugs into pills (or syrup) so that you can take an accurately measured amount.
In the ingredient list, depending on what pain killing product you like to keep on hand, you should see starch, citric acid, maltodextrin, polyethylene glycol, sorbitol, mannitol or microcrystalline cellulose. You may also see the more obvious “corn starch” or “high fructose corn syrup”. Any of these ingredients mean a corn allergy sufferer must first make some phone calls before taking the medicine.
I have recently contacted the makers of the main drug companies and a number of smaller companies whose products I found on the shelves of local drug stores. I was told over and over (and over) that the product was not safe for someone with a corn allergy, and that I should contact my dr.
I contacted my doctor.
Her nurse suggested I go to the drug store and buy some Tylenol.
I went to the local pharmacist. Her eyes grew wide as I presented her with my list of potential corn derivatives and she helped me search through the shelves. We discovered that Advil infant drops were probably corn free. I would have to take multiple bottles to make up an adult dose (Which is not reccomended by the manufacturer, by the way.). She suggested I get a prescription written and find a compounding pharmacy.
I called my doctor again. This time I was told to try reading labels.
I called a few companies again. This time I asked if they carried ANY products that would work for pain and be safe for a corn allergic individual. After a long pause I was told that I would need to find a special pharmacist who could formulate my own pain killer using pure acetaminophen (or ibuprofen). Corn is cheap. Its not on the top 8, or even the top 10. Its used widely in all drugs.
So I called my dr again. I started from the beginning and included the fact that I not only have to cook all my food from scratch, but apparently need to make my own pain killers from scratch too. (I think I may have cried a bit. My head was throbbing. Pounding it against the wall wasn't helping any.)
This time the receptionist said someone would call me back. Which they did, several hours later. They told me that Tylenol was not a prescription drug. So I explained the whole story to them.
Finally, the doctor agreed to write a prescription.
So began my search for a pharmacist who was able to compound medicine and understood the scope of a corn allergy. Compounding is a dying art.
I started with my insurance company. They gave me the name of a pharmacy in another state and said they would not cover it mail order. When I pointed out the difficulty with procuring a plane ticket just to pick up an OTC pain killer, they came up with the name of a pharmacy that was a bit closer. Just a 3 or 4 hour drive. Not a big deal, but since I live sandwiched between two major metropolitan areas less than an hour away, I was hoping to find something a bit closer. I called my local pharmacist again.
She had found a compounding pharmacist. My exaltation was short lived, however, when the com[ounding pharmacist explained to me that people with corn allergies just don’t understand that corn starch isn’t really corn. (Its just made from corn) He agreed to compound Tylenol using microcrystalline cellulose. Which I looked up, since its on the corn allergy list. Originally, microcrystalline cellulose was derived from tree bark, however now it is commonly derived from any fibrous plant click here and scroll to #22. He refused to verify the source, since by doing the compounding he would be doing me a huge favor anyways. After all, I’m the one refusing to use corn starch just because it makes me sick.
So I kept looking. I found another pharmacist who was certified to compound. But he really wasn’t interested in compounding an otc strenght pain killer. It wasn’t worth his time or effort. Its available mass produced over the counter under many name brands and generic formulations.
He tried to help me find a suitable OTC medication. They all contained corn. He suggested that inactive ingredients weren’t really active and therefore wouldn’t cause a reaction. I think I started to cry again. He took pity on me and agreed to order the materials and compound some acetaminophen.
Finally, about a month after my headache that I would have liked to have taken something for…I had a small bottle of OTC strength acetaminophen (compounded the old fashioned way) in my hand.
Next time I get a headache, it will be worth its weight in gold.