Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where's the Corn in medecine?

Most individuals hear of a corn allergy, blink, imagine a big yellow ear of corn and think "Corn huh? Well, that's easy."

Unfortunately, there's more to Corn than the cob.

Corn is a government subsidized crop, farmers are paid to grow it and they grow it in excess. Since it is readily available, it has been turned into a number of useful substances; and these substance find their ways into a myriad of common products.

What your doctor may not know is that even the medecine he prescribes to treat allergy symptoms contains corn derivatives. To date, we have been unable to find a simple over the counter acetaminophen preperation that does not contain corn derivatives. There are limited cold or allergy preperations that may be safe.

Prescription medications are more difficult to find. OTC preperations contain a list of inactive ingredients. These ingredients are used to hold the preperation together in an easily measured dosage. Its important to be able to take the exact dosage that is right for you, and its not easy to measure teaspoons out by 5ths (or other odd measurements) so drugs are mixed with various non medical ingredients to make a tidy pill or liquid suspecsion. Prescription drugs are not required to list non medical, or inactive, ingredients.

Even pharmacists may not realize that these inactive ingredients pose a severe risk to food allergic individuals. From their perspective, inactive ingredients "don't count" because they do not affect the function of the active ingredient. However, they still get ingested and absorbed and can have a severe impact on the way you feel.

Common excipients, or medicinal "fillers" and "binders" that can be derived from corn include (but are not limited to) Alcohol, artificial flavoring, microcrystalline cellulose (and anything else with the word "cellulose"), citric acid, corn starch (or simply "starch" or "modified food starch"), dextrose, glucose, glycerine, lactate, maltose, mannitol, propylene glycol, saccharin, sorbitol, xanthan gum, zein. All ingredients should be double checked for the source.

If you are unable to obtain a safe OTC medicine, you can often have the formulation compounded. Just insist that the pharmacist work with you to verify the source of anything that will be used, including the capsules.

The real trouble comes with prescription medecines. A typical pharmacist will not have a full list of ingredients for all medecines handy. And, unfortunately, patents protect the formulation of many brand name drugs. Before accepting any medication (let alone taking it) it is imperative that an allergy sufferer insist on knowing the full list of ingredients, including non-medical or inactive ingredients and verify that the source for any suspicious ones is not corn (or any other sensitivity).


Anonymous said...

I wish more people understood this! The last time my son needed an antibiotic, he had to be admitted into the hospital to have it via IV because it did not come in any corn-free form orally.

The hospital pharmacist didn't believe me, and gave him someting to take home - I tried it the night before he was to be released, and he had a horrible reaction - he had hives from head to toe. It was quite a wakeup call for the hospital.

More people need to be made aware of this. We have all the over-the-counter medications he would normally take (like diphenhydramine, acetominophen and ibuprophen) compounded, and it costs $100 a bottle - which is not covered by insurance, because they are over-the-counter doses.

Anonymous said...

Fight your insurance for coverage of over-the-counter meds that you need to be compounded due to food allergies. It requires a doctors note stating why this medication is vital and explaining about the food allergy.

It was hard, but I won that battle with my insurance.

Rachel said...

Found your blog a couple years later... I have this same problem. I can't tell you how many pharmacists I've argued with insisting on seeing the actual package insert to read the inactive ingredients.

Anonymous said...

I have a five year old daughter with a severe corn allergy and asthma. I have discovered that there is no pure form of penicillan. They all contain corn. Prednisone ODT is the only form that does not contain corn. Feverall is the only fever reducer that she can use. She gets severe headaches but can't undergo an MRI w/ contrast because all contrast contains corn. Every day is a learning experience. At least we now know the cause of all of her health problems and breathing. If we keep her corn free she is a happy healthy little girl.