Caring for patients with celiac disease: the role of the pharmacist

J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). Sep-Oct 2008;48(5):e125-35; quiz e136-9. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2008.08014.


Objective: To review the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment, and complications of celiac disease, in order to provide guidance to pharmacists.

Data sources: Published articles identified through Medline using search terms such as celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and gluten enteropathy. Additional resources were identified from personal bibliographies collected by the authors and bibliographies from gathered articles.

Data synthesis: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is characterized by intolerance to gluten and affects approximately 3 million Americans. Although the most common manifestations of the disease are gastrointestinal, including diarrhea, steatorrhea, and weight loss, the disease is a multisystem disorder. Malabsorption is common, often leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and resulting in anemia and osteoporosis. Diagnosis is initiated through serology testing and confirmed by intestinal biopsy. The only treatment for celiac disease is strict, lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet, which includes avoidance of foods, prescription and nonprescription pharmaceutical products, and cosmetics containing wheat, barley, and rye. Adherence to the gluten-free diet will promote intestinal healing and symptom relief and usually prevent complications of celiac disease.

Conclusion: Pharmacists can play an important role by identifying patients who may have celiac disease, providing information for gluten-free foods and pharmaceutical products, and encouraging adherence to the gluten-free diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Celiac Disease / complications
  • Celiac Disease / epidemiology
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Celiac Disease / therapy*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free
  • Glutens / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pharmacists*
  • Professional Role*
  • Serologic Tests / methods
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Glutens