Common Inactive Ingredients in Prescription Drugs

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

If you regularly take medication, you may be ingesting more than just what your doctor prescribed. Many medications contain the pain reliever acetaminophen, a medication that even in low doses can cause liver damage. Prescription drugs also contain a wide range of fillers, artificial flavors, coatings and other compounds that aren’t good for your health. Compounding Pharmacy of America provides medications without all the extra ingredients. Here’s what you need to know about what you might be taking.

Inactive Ingredients Aren’t Innocuous

Pills, liquid medications, inhalants and suppositories have active ingredients that target symptoms and underlying conditions. They also have added substances called excipients that make pills more substantial, sweeten syrups to cover the medication’s taste or to help the drug spread throughout your system. Some of these substances are toxic, which is especially concerning if you take medication every day.

Pharmaceutical companies say the harmful substances in medication are in such small quantities they don’t cause damage, but they cause reactions in new patients every day. Pharmacists often classify excipients as proteins, alcohol or ethanol, or sweeteners.

Aspartame And Saccharine

Pharmaceutical companies add artificial sweeteners to drugs to make them taste better. Some individuals can’t swallow pills or prefer to take them in liquid form.

Aspartame is a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Many people who ingest aspartame report headaches, with some patients saying it triggers migraines. Some reports link aspartame to panic attacks, mood changes, dizziness, nausea and memory impairment.

Drug labels don’t always list aspartame as an ingredient, but if its present the manufacturer will often notify patients that it contains phenylalanine. Johnson and Johnson, Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, Equate and other major labs use it in prescriptions. Aspartame is an ingredient in antibiotics like Amoxicillin chewable and Penicillin Oral suspension. It sweetens the antidepressant Singulair chewable and is present in antacids like Pepcid and Zantac. It also comes in many over the counter medications.

Many oral medications also contain saccharine. For years manufacturers had to print a warning on saccharine products stating it might be hazardous. The sweetener has no nutritional value and cannot be digested.


Many people are allergic to the protein found in eggs. Some vaccines, anesthetics, antidepressants and other medications contain albumin made from eggs. Synviscone is an injected osteoarthritis treatment, Proquad is a vaccine that can cause anaphylactic reactions and Fluzone is a flu vaccine that can cause a severe allergic reaction.

Alcohol Or Ethanol

Alcohol is a solvent in many liquid medications. It can cause harmful interactions with other medications that lead to nausea, blood pressure changes, headaches or drowsiness. Sometimes patients don’t realize what they’re taking and drink additional alcohol with their prescription, increasing their risk of liver damage, stomach bleeding and heart attack.

Other Inactive Ingredients

There’s a staggering list of inactive ingredients the FDA approves to put in medication. Here are just a few of the ones you need to know about.

Acetone is a flammable liquid that has no color. Tiny amounts occur naturally in urine. Pharmaceutical companies use it as a solvent. It is one of the primary ingredients in nail polish remover. It’s found in Allegra-D 24 Hour 180 mg, many forms of Omeprazole, in Tramadol Hydrochloride and more.

Aluminum oxide is a white powder in medications like acetaminophen, OxyContin and Viagra. The FDA doesn’t classify it as a carcinogen, but workers continually exposed to dust containing aluminum oxide have suffered extreme pulmonary reactions like emphysema and fibrosis. Short-term exposure causes breathing difficulties and eye irritation. Long-term exposure impacts the brain and nerves.

Butylparaben is a flavoring, preservative and suspension agent for cosmetics and medications. Parabens mimic estrogen in the body. Studies found parabens in breast tumors. Extra Strength Tylenol and Benadryl Allergy Kapgels contain butylparaben.

Hydrochloric acid is a clear solution created by mixing hydrogen chloride and water. It is highly irritating and corrosive to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Many forms of the antidepressant Budeprion contain hydrochloric acid.

Lactose is sugar from milk that helps pharmaceutical companies compress tablets.  People who are lactose intolerant may not be able to digest lactose, and those who are allergic will likely have a reaction. Viagra, Xanax and Lorazepam are all examples of prescriptions containing lactose.

A Better Pill To Swallow

It’s possible to obtain your prescriptions without inactive ingredients. Compounding Pharmacy of America doesn’t fill your prescription with pre-made formulas. They custom make medications for each patient, so you can exclude ingredients that are harmful to your health. We adjust the strength, flavor, ingredients or delivery method one patient at a time. Get in touch with one of our compounding pharmacists today.