Lactose is used as a filling or coating in hundreds of medications,
both prescription and over-the-counter.
Most categories of medicine, fortunately, have several lactose-free
choices. Birth Control Pills (BCPs), of all things, were the one
exception. For a long while, the only lactose-free BCP was Demulen. And then Dermulen was taken off the market, replaced by a generic version named Zovia, which contained lactose.
BCPs come in 21-day doses, to cover the active portion of a
woman's cycle. But experience showed that some woman forgot to
start up the new cycle on time if they had to take a week off
without any pills. So the pharmaceutical companies came up with
seven-day placebo or spacer pills, inactive pills that were simply
place-holders, allowing women to take a pill every day and make
it into the kind of automatic habit that left no gaps. Lactose could be in either the active pills or the inactive pills or both.
So which BCPs, if any, are lactose free?
Thanks to the good folks at Wegmans Food and Drugs, my local supermarket chain, and one that has been in the forefront of making lactose information available, I can answer that question. Christopher Woodring, Pharmacist Intern, created a list based on information from Clinical Pharmacology. Many thanks to him for his arduous effort. Thanks also to the Wegmans East Avenue pharmacists, Katie Barbone, Natasha Dedes, and Paul Taranto.
The short version, listing only those pills with either active or inactive pills that are lactose free can be found on my Planet Lactose blog on the page Lactose-Free Birth Control Pills. The Definitive List.
The short answer is that only Nordette from Duramed/Barr and Portia from Barr can be confirmed as having their active pills being lactose free. Other pills may have one set or the other lactose-free, although full information could not be found for all.
In addition, the contraceptive injections like Depo-Provera are also obviously lactose-free.
You can find the full list of all contraceptive medications by clicking here
Women should remember that the amount of lactose in any one pill is tiny. Unless you are extremely lactose intolerant the amount of lactose in any individual pill should not cause any symptoms. The best pill for you may contain lactose. Still, I understand that many women are seeking to avoid dairy in all forms and all doses. This information should be especially helpful for you.