Are medicines vegan?

Vegan icon

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The Vegan Society

Vegan diets have become increasingly popular, because of ethical, environmental, or health reasons. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including dairy and eggs, either replacing products with vegetable and fruit based look-alikes, or eating a completely different type of diet which may include raw fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to medicines, it is more difficult to make a choice which is true to pure vegan principles and for your own health you may find that you do need to take a medicine which is not totally vegan. It is important to do your research carefully and to be clear of your own red lines. Your decision should then be taken in consultation with your doctor.

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Off label medication


Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency logo

Every medication supplied in the UK goes through a strict process of development and monitoring to ensure it is effective and safe. Once it has passed clinical trials the drug manufacturer can apply for a licence. This licence is only for the problems that it has been used for in the trial and shown to be effective for. All medicines used in the UK must have a licence before being issued to patients. This is done by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK.

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Medicine expiry dates

Expiry date printed on a medicine pack

We are all familiar with ‘best-before’ and ‘use-by’ dates on food. Medicines are very similarly labelled.

If you look at the packet of your most recent medication, you will see stamped on it somewhere, an expiry date. But what does this expiry date really mean?

Although generally not recommended, we may sometimes choose to eat certain foods beyond their ‘best before’ date. But can we do the same with medicines?

Is it really necessary to throw away, and waste, unused medicines?

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Generic medicine FAQs

generic medicines

What are generic medicines?

When the original patent (the exclusive right granted by governments to an inventor to manufacture and sell their invention) of a medicine runs out it becomes legal for ‘copies’ of the original active ingredient to be produced and marketed. These copies, which are medically identical to original medicines, are called generics or generic medicines. Generic medicines contain the same active ingredient and are medically identical to the original, but usually cost less. According to the BGMA generic medicine saves the NHS more than £10bn annually. Read in full