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The UK prides itself on its rich and diverse population, within which many religious and personal beliefs are observed. Many of these beliefs may be associated with dietary restrictions, so it is important to consider religious or personal beliefs when prescribing and dispensing medicines for patients.
Islam is the second most-practised religion in the UK, and makes up 4.4% of the total population1. In Islam, prohibitions are specified either by a verse of the Qur’an (holy scriptures) or authentic and explicit Sunnah (teachings) of the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which form the Islamic Law (Shariah).
“Therefore eat of that on which Allah’s name has been mentioned if you are believers in His verses.” (Qur’an 6:118).
These laws give Muslims the freedom to eat and drink all food and drinks that are not prohibited (haram)2; however, it should never be assumed that every individual is compliant with all the practices within Islam, so healthcare professionals are advised to consult with each patient as an individual and ascertain their views and beliefs before a treatment plan is put in place.
Halal means lawful or legal. Halal ingredients are vegetables, plants, fish, meat, fat or gelatin from a halal animal (which was slaughtered according to Shariah rules).
Haram is the opposite of halal. Examples include foods, constituents and pharmaceuticals that contain pork, alcohol, and animals not slaughtered in the Shariah way3.
In Arabic, mushbooh means ‘doubtful things’. Constituents, food and pharmaceuticals that are mushbooh have been classed as neither halal nor haram, but Muslims are advised to stay away from them. Individuals should seek advice from their religious scholars if there no other options are available; personal situations and circumstances may vary.
Tayyib refers to a particular good or product that is clean, pure and produced using standard processes and procedures. A pharmaceutical product should not only be Halal, but also deemed clean and quality assured according to Shariah law. This is also expected for pharmaceuticals under the UK licensing law.
Pharmaceutical products that contain ingredients permitted under the Shariah law, and fulfil the following conditions, are considered halal (permissible)4,5:
It is important to note that in life-threatening situations, haram products can become halal. The Shariah is very flexible, and non-halal medication can be given if there is no viable alternative and if the patient’s life depends on it, or if the patient would suffer significant morbidity by not taking the medication.
Patients who are unsure whether a particular medicinal product is halal or haram should seek advice from their local imam. Local imams can also offer advice to healthcare professionals.
Medicines information services can be useful when investigating whether products available in the UK are suitable for Muslim patients, and the services can also suggest alternative options.
The Muslim Council of Britain can also answer specific enquiries or concerns from patients or healthcare professionals. Find out more at: http://www.mcb.org.uk/
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