Does Sertraline contain lactose? (+3 tips)

In this brief article, we shall answer the question: “Does Sertraline contain lactose?” We shall also discuss how to safely use Sertraline in people who have lactose intolerance and the available alternatives for those who cannot completely tolerate the lactose-containing formulation.

Does Sertraline contain lactose?

Yes, Sertraline contains lactose. Sertraline is usually formulated as tablets which in most cases contain lactose (1). This may be a problem in persons with lactose intolerance, but the content is usually low, and may not be bothersome to most people unless they have a severe lactose intolerance.

Sertraline is an antidepressant medication that belongs to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) class (1,2). It is used to treat major depressive disorder obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (2).

Why does Sertraline contain lactose?

Lactose is used as a diluent or filler in Sertraline tablets since the amount of the active ingredient, sertraline hydrochloride is very small (1,5). Lactose and other excipients are also used as binders, gliders and disintegrants which are important for the consistency and quality of Sertraline tablets.

What do Sertraline formulations contain?

Sertraline (Zoloft) is usually formulated as 25mg film-coated tablets (1,3). It is also available in 50 and 100-mg strengths (3). Sertraline hydrochloride is the active ingredient and the core excipients include lactose monohydrate, cellulose microcrystalline, croscarmellose sodium, magnesium stearate and povidone (1,3).

The excipients vary among manufacturers, but many brands contain lactose (4). The content is however low compared to the amount from dietary intake (5). Additionally, lactose-free Sertraline is also available for those who cannot tolerate lactose at all (6).

Consult your health professional for the best formulation that is suitable for you, especially if you have lactose intolerance.

Can you take sertraline if you have lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance occurs when the small intestine is unable to make enough lactase, a digestive enzyme used to break down lactose to allow for absorption. This may result in diarrhoea, gas and bloating after one takes lactose-containing products, including Sertraline and many other oral medications (4,5). Lactose intolerance can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms in a few people.

Typically, lactose is one of the most widely used excipients in drug formulations and is often overlooked when drugs are prescribed (4). The lactose content in most drugs is however small compared to the amount in food and is usually not bothersome for most people unless they have severe lactose intolerance (5). Even then, it is still a risk to those with lactose intolerance.

Consult your healthcare professional or pharmacist if you develop bothersome symptoms when taking Sertraline.

Are there any alternative options for lactose-intolerant individuals?

Lactose-free Sertraline is available for those who cannot completely tolerate lactose-containing formulations (5,6). However, it may not always be necessary as the symptoms may be reduced by avoiding lactose-containing foods while taking the drug (7).

You can minimize the risk of lactose intolerance while taking Sertraline by maintaining a balanced diet, reducing your intake of lactose-containing diets such as milk and monitoring the adverse effects. If the adverse effects become too bothersome, then you will need to contact your doctor who may consider switching you to the lactose-free alternative.

You can identify lactose-free Sertraline by checking the product information leaflet to see if lactose is listed among the excipients (5).

Contact your healthcare professional before taking sertraline if you have lactose intolerance. Your doctor will determine the safe formulation before prescribing, and advise accordingly.

Research studies on the effects of excipients

The amount of lactose in Sertraline is usually low compared to the amount in food, particularly dairy products (5). The total amount from the drug is usually less than 2g per day compared to about 10-14g that is present in a glass of milk. This is usually safe unless a person has severe lactose intolerance (1,5). You would therefore theoretically require about five to six tablets to obtain the same lactose concentration as the amount in a glass of milk, which is way above the standard dose.

It is noteworthy that some people may also be allergic to some of the other excipients contained in Sertraline tablets. Contact your pharmacist or healthcare professional if you experience any unpleasant effects while taking Sertraline.


Sertraline contains lactose, but at a low amount which is usually tolerated by most people. However, it may be bothersome to a few individuals, especially those who have lactose intolerance. This may be minimized by reducing the intake of lactose-containing foods while taking the drug and monitoring the adverse effects. If the adverse effects become too bothersome then you will need to contact your doctor who may switch you to the lactose-free formulation.

In my view, your doctor will have considered all options before prescribing the Sertraline tablets for you. However, individuals with lactose intolerance need to be aware of the potential risks associated with lactose-containing drugs. Consult your healthcare professional before taking Sertraline to discuss the alternatives and make informed choices.

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Sertraline 25 mg Film-coated Tablets: Package Leaflet: Information for the patient.


Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline. 2023 Feb 13. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 31613469.


Svetinović, D., Barun, I., Vuk Pisk, S., Filipčić, I., & Grošić, V. (2023). “Lactose free” depression- Antidepressant with and without lactose registered in Croatia. European Psychiatry, 66(S1), S828-S829. doi:10.1192/j.eurpsy.2023.1755.


NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service. Prescribing in lactose intolerance and how to identify lactose free medicines [Internet]. 2023 [Cited 2023 November 12]. Available at:


Healthdirect Australia. APO-Sertraline Tablets. Consumer Information [Internet]. 2023 [Cited 2023 November 12]. Available at:


NHS Inform. Lactose intolerance [Internet]. 2023 [Cited 2023 November 12]. Available at:

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