Non-veg capsules cost-effective, says PGI examine

CHANDIGARH: At a time when there is a debate over replacing animal origin capsules with cellulose (vegetarian) ones owing to religious sentiments of the people, a research published by PGI’s pharmacology department has concluded that animal origin capsules are cost effective and practical for manufacturers.
The researchers supported the fact that religious practices must not decide on lifesaving medicines.

Capsule shells are of two types, vegetarian and nonvegetarian, on the basis of their origin. Gelatin capsule shell are of animal origin and starch-based shells are of vegetarian origin. Gelatin is obtained from processed bones, skins and tissues of pigs, cattle and other animals. On the other hand, cellulose capsules are of synthetic origin.

The study is published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology by Drs Ajay Prakash, Hariom Soni, Abhishek Mishra, and , department of pharmacology, . The authors in their analysis wrote: “We can see that both gelatin and nongelatin capsules are comparable in toxicity. But, to keep in mind is that gelatin is an age-old technology with proven safety record. Manufacturing easiness, easily available raw material, and low cost are the advantages of gelatin capsules.”

Last year, the and the health ministry expressed concern over animal origin of capsules. The origin of the debate started when Union minister for women and child development proposed for a change in the capsule gels to vegetarian as this “hurts religious sentiments and many people avoid medicines that are in capsule form.” The panel set up the Union ministry of health and family welfare, however, rejected the proposal.

In the study, the authors reasoned that defining vegetarian is a difficult issue. “Many a time, manufacturing of drugs requires different reagents of animal origin. Again, different drug products are also of non-vegetarian origin, for example, hormonal products, heparin, insulin, antiserum, and human cell line-derived products. Involvement of all these complicated issues makes determination of vegetarian and non-vegetarian capsules difficult,” the study said.

The researchers condemned the use of starch or non-gelatin raw material as its raw materials are readily available in the market, whereas the same for non-gelatin are quite less and are four times costlier than their gelatin counterpart.

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