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Ivory tusks the US Fish and Wildlife service, at the direction of President Obama, crushed Nov. 14, 2013, at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, Commerce City, Colo., in an effort to stymie the illegal taking of wildlife.
There's a very good chance that some of the medicine in your home contains an animal-derived ingredient. The most frequently included animal-based ingredients in meds, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal, are lactose (often extracted from curdled cow’s milk), gelatin (frequently sourced from cows) and magnesium stearate, which can also come from a cow and is a magnesium salt containing stearic acid. A PETA fact sheet mentions that stearic acid additionally can come from dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters, but cows remain the primary source. “Lactose, the most common ingredient we found in medications, was largely made using the lining of young cow stomachs as part of the manufacturing process,” BMJ study co-author Kinesh Patel told Discovery News. Patel is a research fellow at St. Mark’s Hospital’s Wolfson Unit for Endoscopy in the U.K.PHOTOS: Animals Rescuing Animals
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Both magnesium stearate and gelatin, along with a blood clot preventer called heparin, can come from pigs. Patel and co-author Kate Tatham told Discovery News that the top 10 common medicines most likely to contain ingredients derived from animals are: aspirin, simvastatin, paracetamol, thyroxine, omeprazole, lansoprazole, salbutamol, ramipril, amlodipine and atorvastatin. Aside from aspirin, most of these are sold under snazzier brand names, so if you are curious or concerned about animal-based ingredients, be sure to read labels carefully and research drugs via the manufacturer’s website and other provided information.PHOTOS: Animal Superpower -- The Eyes Have It
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Estrogen is sometimes sourced from female hormones derived from pregnant mares’ urine, according to PETA. Horses and other animals are not killed for drug manufacturing, though, according to Patel. He said the ingredients are “likely to be from leftovers” of butchering for other purposes. In the United States, this likely means animals found in meat markets, such as cows and pigs. But in Central Asia, for example, horse meat is considered to be acceptable.Top 10 Camera Trap Wildlife Photos
Gelatin in drugs can come from fish, the researchers share. They add that many patients are unaware that commonly prescribed drugs often contain animal ingredients. “Our data suggest that it is likely that patients are unwittingly ingesting medications containing animal products with neither prescriber nor dispenser aware,” Patel and Tatham wrote. They call for improved drug labeling, mirroring the standards advised for food.Best Ocean Animal Photos of 2013
Chitosan, a binder in some ointments, is derived from shellfish shells. It helps to bind lipids, or fats, in medicines and other products, such as hair-care items and antiperspirants. Although the level of this and other possible animal products in many medications is likely to be minimal, Patel and Tatham say doctors need to consider this when prescribing "to avoid non-adherence, which is a major healthcare concern." Adherence, in this case, means that doctors should be forthright about what’s contained in medications.PHOTOS: Animals That Use Flash to Attract
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A red pigment known as carmine or carminic acid can come from an insect called the cochineal (and the pigment is sometimes called cochineal). According to a report on Foodnet, the pharmaceutical industry uses cochineal to color pills and ointments. There are conflicting studies as to how such ingredients -- in very small amounts -- might affect human health. A study conducted by J.B. Greig of the Food Standards Agency in London found that cochineal could be linked to asthma. Patel and Tatham, however, told Discovery News: “There are no specific health concerns associated with the ingestion of any of these (animal and insect derived) ingredients.”PHOTOS: Madagascar Home to 615 Newly Discovered Species
Some ointments contain ingredients derived from egg protein. These, and other ingredients, usually can be substituted with compounds from other sources. “The medicines we investigated could largely be made without animal-derived products,” Patel said. He added that the more commonly used gelatin and magnesium stearate inclusions now have vegetarian counterparts.PHOTOS: Animals Make Art
The oil glands of sheep produce lanolin, found in many medicines and ointments. Those who are vegan or vegetarian try to avoid use of such animal products. The researchers further point out that religion, culture, economic status, environmental concerns, food intolerances and personal preferences also can influence whether a person wishes to consume an animal-derived ingredient.PHOTOS: Mink, Rats, Bats Go to Super Bowl Too
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The enzyme lipase can be derived from juvenile sheep, aka lambs. Lipase is in some medicines treating digestion problems. PETA mentions that the enzyme can come “from the stomachs and tongue glands of calves, kids and lambs.”PHOTOS: Most Amazing Animal Friendships
Shark liver oil, squalene, is in some vaccines and over-the-counter products, such as glucosamine (chondrontin). “Many of the companies are multinationals,” Patel said. Shark-based ingredients are thought to largely come from Asia, where a shark slaughterhouse was recently found in southeastern China. The organization WildLifeRisk found that the factory processes approximately 600 whale sharks and basking sharks each year.PHOTOS: Animal Olympians
The United States banned the domestic trade of elephant ivory on Tuesday as part of a new drive to help African countries stem the rising threat to wildlife from poachers.
The White House administrative action prohibits all commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, and all commercial exports -- except for bona fide antiques and certain other items.
The outlawed ivory trade is mostly fueled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments. Poaching has risen sharply in Africa in recent years where, besides targeting rhinos, gangs have slaughtered whole herds of elephants for their tusks.
"This ban is the best way to help ensure that US markets do not contribute to the further decline of African elephants in the wild," the White House said in a statement.
It said federal departments and agencies would immediately take actions to, among other things, clarify what constitutes an antique.
"To qualify as an antique, an item must be more than 100 years old and meet other requirements under the Endangered Species Act."
"The onus will now fall on the importer, exporter, or seller to demonstrate that an item meets these criteria."
Other measures include limiting to two the number of African elephant sport-hunted trophies that can be imported by an individual each year. The crackdown on ivory is a key aspect of a new national strategy for combating wildlife trafficking, also unveiled Tuesday, that has been in the works for some time.
During a trip to Tanzania last year, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for a $10 million program to reduce the practice in Africa. That led to the setting up of a task force to develop the strategy to crack down on the lucrative trade -- estimated to be worth between $7 and $10 billion a year.
"The United States will continue to lead global efforts to protect the world's iconic animals and preserve our planet's natural beauty for future generations," the White House said.
Senior administration officials said the United States is one of the world's largest markets for wildlife products, both legal and illegal.
"Much of the trafficking in ivory and other wildlife products either passes through or ends up in the United States and so we are committed to putting an end to the illegal trade in elephant ivory and also other wildlife products," one official told reporters on a conference all.
Another said that, under the ban, it would be legal to own items made from ivory and gift these to your children or children -- but it would not be legal to sell them.
"We are facing a situation where rhino horn is worth more than its weight in gold. Elephant ivory is going for as much as $1,500 a pound," the official said.
"So we believe that an outright ban on domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn is appropriate because it will help us be more effective in law enforcement and it will demonstrate a US leadership worldwide."
"We can't ask other consumer nations to crack down on their domestic trade and markets unless we're prepared to the same here at home."
The official said there are less than half a million elephants on the African continent today and "estimates are that we are losing as many as 35,000 elephants per year."