While wheat and barley are very rare in medications, medications are always on lists of “places to look for gluten”. Drug companies and even pharmacists are not always very helpful on this issue. If they do claim there is gluten in a product from something other than wheat starch, they are almost certainly wrong! These companies frequently misidentify ingredients that start out as wheat starch as possibly containing gluten, when, in fact, they are so highly processed they are safe for people with celiac disease. This includes ethanol, mannitol, sorbitol, sorbitan, maltitol, xylitol, lactitol, erythritol, and maltodextrin.
So what to do?
First, recognise that wheat products are very rare in medications, except those that come in wafer form. If a gluten source is used as an ingredient, it is expected to be identified in the ingredient list in Canada. Second, if you have been prescribed a medication, take it, even if no one can get an ingredient list late at night or on a weekend. The risk of it being one of the few medications containing wheat starch is likely much lower than the risks of the illness or injury for which it has been prescribed. If you would like to learn more about any medication available in Canada, check the Canadian Drug Products Database. Most of the listings include the Product Monograph, a standard way of presenting scientific information for drugs. Look for DOSAGE FORMS, COMPOSITION AND PACKAGING section at the end of Part 1. It contains the active and inactive ingredients in all forms and if there is a gluten-free claim for the product, it will be stated there.