Medicines (file)
Medicines (file) Israel news photo: Flash 90

Jew always ask before Passover what medicines can be swallowed without violating strict prohibitions against eating “chametz.” Some medicines are prohibited, some are allowed, and some depend on one’s health.

Rabbi Shmuel Silber has written in the “KOF-K Kashrus Newsletter” that the subject is far from black and white, and questions arise from different Talmudic opinions on the definition of chametz – leavened bread.

Some medicines in tablet form are coated with or contain chametz, but the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein permitted swallowing them on Passover because he did not consider tablet medicines as being part of the normal eating process. The rabbi also ruled thee tablets do not satiate or taste good.

Liquid medicines, such as cough syrup, are a different problem because they are swallowed as one normally swallows foods, and they often have a good taste.

The general guidelines suggested by Rabbi Silber are to exercise caution before taking medicines and to consult one’s rabbi.

He also ruled that “known and tested medications in the form of creams, non-chewable pills and injections may be owned, used and consumed on Passover, even if they contain chametz or kitniyot, since they are inedible.”  “Kitniyot” refers to a restrictions adopted by the Ashkenazi Jews against the use of rice and certain vegetables, such as corn.

Concerning liquid medicines, chewable pills and pills coated with a flavored glaze that may contain chametz, the rabbi said they should be replaced with a non-chewable and uncoated pill but only with the approval of doctors.

Jewish law allows and even requires the use medication with chametz in life-threatening cases if no other medicines are available.

The Orthodox Union (OU ) has stated that “Children’s Triaminic Syrup Multi-Symptom Fever” with the tastes of bubble gum and grape are josher for Passover, as is Children’s Triaminic Syrup Cough & Sore Throat, Grape Flavor

Rabbi David Heber of  the Star-Un kosher organization has presented a guide by Rabbi Gershon Bess of Los Angeles, who ruled, “No one should refrain from taking any required medication even if it contains chometz, without first consulting his physician and Rav (rabbi).”

He also wrote, “All medications for a heart condition, diabetes, abnormal blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, lung disease, depression, epilepsy, the immune system (transplant anti-rejection), and cancer treatment (including precautionary) may be taken on Pesach.

“Furthermore, all prescription medication taken on a regular basis for chronic conditions should only be changed with the consultation of your physician….

“Some examples of such chronic conditions include the following: Any psychiatric condition, prostate condition, Crohn’s Disease, celiac, colitis, high cholesterol, Parkinson’s Disease, anemia, Multiple Sclerosis, thyroid condition, and asthma."

He also stated that someone whose life is not threatened should not take medicines with chametz “but such an individual…may eat [medicine with] kitniyot”

However, “Medicine taken by such individuals often lists ingredients that may be derived from chometz.”