Published: 29 December 2023

Information for Consumers

Excipients in Medicines

What are excipients?
Some people may wish to avoid some excipients
How do I find out which excipients are in my medicine?
More information

What are excipients?

Medicines contain active and inactive ingredients (excipients). The active ingredient makes the medicine do what it claims, for example, paracetamol for pain relief. Examples of excipients added to medicines include:

  • oils or alcohol to help the active ingredient dissolve
  • fillers or binding ingredients to make a tablet’s shape and size
  • sweeteners to improve the taste
  • preservatives to make the medicine last longer.

Some people may wish to avoid some excipients

Some excipients in medicines can make some people with allergies, intolerances or medical conditions unwell. For example, people with:

  • anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) to peanuts, soya or sesame should avoid medicines containing peanut oil (also called Arachis oil), soya or sesame oil
  • coeliac disease should avoid gluten
  • phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame and phenylalanine
  • galactosemia or lactose intolerance should avoid lactose
  • diabetes should limit the amount of sugar they eat or drink.

Some excipients are made from animal products, which vegetarians, vegans or people of a particular faith may want to avoid.

Normally, there is only a tiny amount of an excipient in a medicine. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns about the contents of your medicine.

How do I find out which excipients are in my medicine?

There are several ways to find out which excipients are in your medicine. Your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional will be able to help.

Medicine box or packaging

Some excipients must be declared on the medicine box or packaging. See the Medsafe leaflet for more information:

New labelling requirements for excipients in medicines (PDF, 157 KB, 2 pages)

Consumer medicine information (CMI)

If there is a CMI for your medicine, excipients are listed in the ‘Ingredients’ section near the end of the document.

Search for a CMI

Data sheet (prescribing information)

The medicine data sheet (prescribing information) lists the excipients in the ‘Pharmaceutical Particulars’ section near the end of the document.

Search for a data sheet

Product/Application search

If your medicine does not have a CMI or a data sheet, you can use Medsafe’s Product/Application search:

  • Enter the medicine’s brand name in the ‘Trade name’ box. Click on the relevant search result to view the excipients in that medicine.
  • To find out which medicines contain any excipient – enter the excipient in the ‘Ingredient’ box. The search results list all the medicines containing that excipient.

Contact the pharmaceutical company

There may be some information about your medicine that only the pharmaceutical company can provide. This may include:

  • ingredients within a flavour or colour
  • manufacturing impurities or contaminants
  • components of an ingredient (such as caffeine in a natural health product)
  • the source of an ingredient (such as whether it is of animal origin).

Look for the company contact details on the medicine packaging, or in the data sheet, CMI or Product/Application search.

More information

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