Digestive Enzymes (Oral)

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

woman with abdominal pain

What are oral digestive enzymes?

Oral digestive enzymes are complex proteins naturally produced by the body to help digest and breakdown the foods we eat. The pancreas is the organ responsible for making and secreting digestive enzymes. Oral digestive enzymes are used when the pancreas is unable to produce enough digestive enzymes.

The main digestive enzymes are

  1. proteases for digesting proteins,
  2. lipases for digesting fats, and
  3. amylases for digesting carbohydrates.

These digestive enzymes are available in pancreatic enzyme products (PEPs).

What diseases and conditions are treated with oral digestive enzymes (PEPs)?

PEPs are used in people with pancreatic diseases such as

Additionally, PEPs may be used in gastrointestinal disorders such as

Are oral digestive enzymes available by prescription and over-the-counter (OTC)?

Digestive enzymes are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription.

  • OTC products are not approved by the FDA and should not be used with the intent to cure or treat any aliments.
  • OTC digestive enzymes are mainly used as a dietary supplements to help with digestion.
  • OTC dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may contain impurities and varying quantities of active ingredients.

A person should speak to their doctor or pharmacist if he/she is interested in starting an OTC regimen.

Prescription digestive enzymes come in various formulations and may contain different amounts of individual digestive enzymes. Therefore, prescription digestive enzymes are not clinically interchangeable and are not considered bioequivalent by the FDA.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/24/2015

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