Medicine plays a central role in the life of every human being. The importance of halal medicine cannot be stressed enough for Muslims. In comparison to food, awareness for halal medicine is relatively recent. Most medicines for example contain alcohol, which necessitates permissible alternatives for Muslim consumers in need of treatment while staying true to their faith.
Halal medicine or halal pharmaceuticals are essentially curative, palliative products or anything of the same category that comply strictly with Sharia laws. It is monitored at the pre-marketing and post-marketing level, by regulatory bodies specific to the country, e.g. Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) and Lembaga Pengkajian Pangan Obat-obatan dan Kosmetika Majelis Ulama Indonesia (LPPOM MUI). Halal medicines now make up approximately one-third of the global halal market in total revenue, and with growing demand, the statistics seem to only be going upwards. With the wide range of halal pharmaceuticals available, it can be overwhelming as a consumer to identify ingredients that would be halal.
Hence, what are the ingredients to look out for in medicines to identify its halal status? The first thing to consider is the presence of alcohol. For instance, only ethyl alcohol (such as methylated spirits and ethanol, the alcohol found in alcoholic drinks) are intoxicating and are therefore haram. Other forms of alcohol (such as stearyl) are not intoxicating. These types of alcohol won’t be found in any food or drink due to the fact that they are generally poisonous, but it is a factor worth noting when buying household goods containing these. Besides that, pharmaceuticals made from animal derivatives are also ingredients we have to be wary of. One of the most highlighted issues regarding ingredients used is the infamous gelatine. Some medicines and supplements also use gelatine as part of their capsules. It can be permissible to use these if the gelatine are Halal unless it is explicitly stated that it is Haram, since gelatine is not necessarily derived from najs, e.g. pig.
Beyond just ingredients, the methods used to prepare and package the pharmaceuticals matters significantly too. It is important the company which releases these medicines separate the assembly line of non-halal medicine from halal medicine as to avoid contamination. Even when it comes to the repetition in converting the line to najs al-mughallazah line and back to halal line, shall not be permitted. The line must be dedicated halal. Similar to food, ethical guidelines also need to be complied with. In the testing of pharmaceuticals, things like abusive treatment of animals in order to test the effectiveness of the drug might cause a pharmaceutical to be haram.
It is not always an easy task to ascertain the halal status of pharmaceuticals. When medical or biological terms are used to describe a certain ingredient, people who are not well-versed in the jargon might not be able to comprehend what they’re consuming. It has become increasingly convenient however, with the existence of agencies and bodies that dedicate their organization to certifying and verifying the halal ingredients found in medicines, and ensuring that the job of consumers is made easier. With the increasing advancement of medicine and pharmaceuticals, it is important that we keep a watchful eye for any development to ensure that everything remains Shariah-compliant.