Coated drugs can contain harmful plasticizing chemicals

A search of between 500-1,000 over-the-counter and prescription supplements and drugs has found that the plastic coatings of over 100 of them contain two forms of phthalates. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that improve flexibility in plastics, and their use in the plastic coatings of pills can allow regulated release of drugs into the digestive tract where they are most usefully absorbed.

However phthalates have also been found to have deleterious health effects in animals and children. Two of them, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP) affect the reproductive tracts of males leading to hormonal, fertility and reproductive problems.

The researchers, who do not want to stop people taking their medicines, say that this points towards the need for further research and the possibility of action by regulating bodies, because not all phthalate-containing medicines list the inactive ingredients on their packaging.

Phthalates are widely used, and their presence in the bodies of human is not entirely from orally ingested medicines. But evidence does suggest that high exposure levels may come from medicines, and pregnant women on long-term medicines are a source of concern.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

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First Published in December 2011

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