I recently talked about a frustrating experience in trying to find out whether chewable aspirin I purchased contained gluten. The label said it contained "starch" but did not specifiy whether it was "wheat" or "corn" starch, a critical difference for those with diagnosed Celiac Disease (about 1 percent prevalence according to the FDA). I bounced from customer service to company pharmacists to pill distributors to pill maker across several days...provided lot numbers, waited for call backs, and finally got the answer from a guy named Matthew at Perrigo (named by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 100 growing companies). Sadly, Matthew and I played phone tag since their offices close at 5pm EST in the U.S. but eventually he was able to look it up based on the lot numbers on the bottle.
My question for Matthew (and his supervisor): Why not make the information on Matthew's screen available to everyone (or at least to pharmacists at the supermarkets and pharmacies where the pills are sold)? The supervisor (who was very cordial) talked about various problems in labeling, for example, finding space on already crowded labels, revenue systems for access to information, gradual movement toward changes in labeling coming from the FDA.
But the answer seems simple to me. If the pill maker "knows" the answer (it either has gluten in the pills or doesn't) why not make that information freely available...either on the web or on the label?
I've sent a message to the FDA asking for clarification on their rules and I'll be sure to post any relevant information on my blog.