Study: Medicines Contain Ingredients that Cause Allergic Reactions

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. trigger / ˈtrɪgɚ / (v) – to cause something to happen

    Eating shrimp always triggers redness on my face.

  2. comprise / kəmˈpraɪz / (v) – to have or contain something

    The approved drugs were comprised of six new ingredients.

  3. elaborate / ɪˈlæbəˌreɪt / (v) – to provide more information

    During the press conference, the World Health Organization elaborated on the new regulations for prescribing medication.

  4. stabilize / ˈsteɪbəˌlaɪz / (v) – to make something balanced

    Three more chemicals were added to the medicine to stabilize its formula.

  5. apprehensive / ˌæprɪˈhɛnsɪv / (adj) – worried or afraid

    I am apprehensive about taking medicine without knowing its ingredients because I might have an allergic reaction.


Read the text below.

A new study revealed that most medicines may have inactive ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals.

Inactive ingredients are chemicals added to a drug that do not affect the medicine’s therapeutic property, like food coloring. Other common inactive ingredients are gluten and lactose, which cannot be digested by people with certain conditions or diseases.

The researchers of the study examined more than 42,000 medicines and analyzed the medical records of patients vulnerable to common inactive ingredients. Their findings show that about 75% of each pill or capsule is comprised of inactive ingredients. In addition, it was discovered that some patients had dangerous reactions to some prescribed drugs due to some of these ingredients.

In spite of the study’s findings, co-author Dr. Giovanni Traverso claimed that the amount of inactive ingredients per pill or capsule is low enough to avoid triggering allergic reactions in most individuals. Pharmaceutical chemist Sravan Kumar Patel [SHRUH-vuhn kuhMAHR puhTEHL] backed this statement, saying that serious reactions would likely happen only in patients taking multiple pills with the same inactive ingredients.

Traverso also elaborated that while inactive ingredients may pose risks to some individuals, these components also have benefits. For instance, some inactive ingredients aid in stabilizing medicines. Other inactive components make the therapeutic elements of medicines easier for the body to absorb.

Despite these benefits, Traverso still believes that regulation on labeling medicines with potential harmful effects should be improved. Moreover, he advised people who are apprehensive about inactive ingredients to carefully read information about their medicine.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the benefits of using inactive ingredients (e.g. making medicine easier to absorb) outweigh the risks (e.g. causing allergic reactions)? Explain.
• How do you think this study will impact people’s opinions on medicine (e.g. be more cautious of medicines)? Why?

Discussion B

• What can be done to ensure the safety of patients from possible allergic reactions to medicine (e.g. put better labels)? Discuss.
• Do you think it is possible to eliminate all risks from medicines before they are sold? Why or why not?