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SafeMedicationUse Newsletter



How Much Iron Is in Here?


2020-02-05

SafeMedicationUse.ca received a report from a consumer who almost took 10 times the amount of iron that was prescribed. She was recommended to take 300 milligrams (mg) daily by her doctor. The label on the iron product showed the iron content as "35 mg", so the consumer calculated that she needed 9 or 10 tablets every day.

Fortunately, the consumer was uncomfortable taking so many iron pills. She contacted the pharmacy to ask for more information. She learned that the 35 mg on the product label referred to elemental iron. The 300 mg recommended dose referred to the iron salt. With this product, 35 mg of elemental iron is equal to 300 mg of iron salt. In other words, the doctor wanted the patient to take just 1 tablet daily.

Labels Can Be Confusing

Iron Salt
Iron salt is iron that has been combined with other ingredients.

Ferrous fumarate is an example of an iron salt.

The capsule strength of the product above is 300 mg of ferrous fumarate, which contains 100 mg of elemental iron.
Elemental Iron
Elemental iron is the amount of iron that will be available for your body to absorb.

The tablet strength of the product above is shown as elemental iron: 300 mg tablet of ferrous gluconate contains 35 mg of elemental iron.

The label tells you how much iron is in each tablet or capsule. The label will state either the amount of iron on its own (known as "elemental iron") or the amount of iron in combination with another ingredient (known as "iron salt"). It is important to know which type of iron the label describes, because this tells you how much of the product to take. Having too much iron in your body can be dangerous for your health.

Health Canada is moving towards the use of a product facts table for natural health products such as iron. This table will provide information in a standard format to help consumers.



Medication safety bulletins contribute to Global Patient Safety Alerts

This newsletter was developed in collaboration with Best Medicines Coalition and Patients for Patient Safety Canada.

Recommendations are shared with healthcare providers, through the ISMP Canada Safety Bulletin, so that changes can be made together.

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