‘Vegan’ pain killers – What can you take?

We all know that no medication is truly ‘vegan’. In the UK, medications have to be tested on animals, by law, before they can be given to humans. So nothing drug-based that we take for our health will ever be vegan in the true sense of the word. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that you didn’t have to ingest animal-derived products too?

I’m currently doing a lot of research to find out if there are medications which contain no animal products, and I will keep you updated on my findings (it is looking good). But I thought I’d start with something simple, and frequently used by many people – pain relief. There are lots options for non-drug pain relief (heat packs, cold compresses, complementary therapies) but I wanted to write specifically about medicines.

I had a thought last week which I wanted to share with you. The biggest culprits which make medication non-‘vegan’ are lactose and gelatine. Lactose is a sugar which is derived from milk, and usually makes up the bulk of tablets. Gelatine is a protein based substance made from skin, bones and connective tissue of animals and is used in the casing of capsules, often as an alternative to the traditional tablet. Obviously, neither of these is suitable for a vegan diet. So I wondered, is there a simple way in which vegans can take pain killing medication without needing to also ingest these common animal products? I came up with the idea of taking liquid medication instead.

Anybody who has children will be very familiar with the liquid forms of these medications – particularly paracetamol, often sold as Calpol, and ibuprofen, often sold as Nurofen for children. I don’t specifically recommend these brands, but their names are often used interchangeably with the generic medication name. However, many pharmacies and supermarkets make their own cheaper versions. I looked through the ingredients lists of both liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen, and couldn’t see any animal products! So why not adjust the dose so that it works for you, as a vegan adult? The recommended doses on the bottles are for children, but it would be easy to work out an equivalent dose. For example:

  • A paracetamol tablet/capsule contains 500mg of the drug
    • Six plus paracetamol liquid (the stronger of the two available formulations) contains 250mg per 5ml of liquid
    • Therefore 10ml of liquid would contain the same amount of paracetamol as 1 tablet


  • A standard ibuprofen tablet contains 200mg of the drug
    • Liquid ibuprofen for children contains 100mg per 5ml of liquid
    • So again, 10ml of liquid would contain the same amount of ibuprofen as 1 tablet

Good news, right?

If you have any difficulty in working out the doses, I’m sure your local pharmacist will help you if you explain that you need to take the liquid instead of tablets.

I am still working on finding vegan versions of medications, but you’ll have to be patient as there are a lot of medications and pharmaceutical companies to work through! But I will keep you updated as I go.

Thanks for reading,

The Vegan Doctor



8 thoughts on “‘Vegan’ pain killers – What can you take?”

  1. As a transplant patient I take a number of medications, the majority of which contain gelatine and/or lactose. Shellac also makes an appearance on one medication. The last time I enquired, my query was shrugged off, but I have been checking current ingredients, with the intention of asking again about vegan alternatives. I really appreciate your work in this area – it’s so encouraging to find that the issue is being recognised.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, and for sharing such a personal perspective. I am hoping to have much more information for you in the coming months. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to get all of the info, but I’m certainly going to try. More and more people are demanding to know what is in their food and medication, so the drug companies are going to have to be much more transparent, and doctors more aware.

      I’ll keep you updated as I find out any more. Thanks for reading!

      The Vegan Doctor

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This must be so frustrating for vegans who need the meds but have the guilt of what’s in them to contend with. I’m sure that Doctors would rightly make enquiries if a patient had religious or medical reasons to be unable to take their prescribed medication but we’re fobbed off with a shrug? (I say “we” because it could be any of us in your situation. I hope all goes well for you xx).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a remarkably useful blog. I’ll certainly be looking into liquid pain killers next time I need them. The last time I needed antibiotics I told my GP I didn’t want capsules and explained why, I got a frown in response. I pointed out that children had liquid antibiotics. prescribed. My Gp then went on to prescribe a liquid antibiotic for me.


  3. I too have been looking into vegan pain medication. I have previously used Mandanol tablets which is a paracetamol preparation without gelatine. I used to buy it in Bodycare but it disappeared from the shelves a couple of months ago. I use a variety of soluble paracetamol (unpleasant taste !) and the syrup which is expensive especially for us pensioners.


  4. Further to my previous reply I’m embarassed to find (but also very pleased) that , for years,I have been under the impression that pregelatinized starch contained gelatine . I have learned that it is heat treated starch and suitable for vegans!


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