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Last Updated: 2011/04/26
Summary of question
There are some pills that help knee stability. These pills contain ingredients extracted from snails, shrimps, crabs or lobsters. Can a doctor prescribe such medicines? If yes, would eating these pills (if they are allowed) affect one's spiritual progress?
There are some pills that help knee stability especially for older people who have knee pain or arthritis in the knee or other joints. These pills contain chondroitin, Methyl (MSM), Sulfonyl Mthana and glucosamine. It says on the package that it may contain shellfish, shrimp crab or lobster ingredient. The shells of such crustaceans have proven to have healing potential for cartilage and joints. Can these pills be taken for medicinal reasons or not? Is it absolutely necessary for a doctor to prescribe these pills or is it enough for a person to know that he is suffering from joint pain and this can give him relief. Would eating these pills (if they are allowed) affect the consumer's spiritual progress? Please give a detailed answer.
Concise answer

Office of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei (may Allah grant him long life):

Generally speaking, snails, shellfish and crabs are haram (forbidden) to eat but shrimps and prawns are permissible, if they have been hunted and killed as per Shari'ah rules. Hence, if you are certain that those pills contain haram ingredients, it is not permissible to take them except when they are necessary for treatment in which case it is permissible to use them to the extent necessary.

Office of Grand Ayatollah Sistani (may Allah grant him long life):

If these ingredients existing in the pills are in very low quantity (2%), there would be no problem in taking them.

Office of Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi (may Allah grant him long life):

There is no objection in using such medicines in the form of ointments but if they contain ingredients that have been extracted from haram animals (i.e. animals that are haram to eat), it is necessary to wash the body parts to make them pure before offering prayers.

Office of Grand Ayatollah Saafi Gulpaigani (may Allah grant him long life):

It is forbidden to use the said medicine but it is permissible to use the said animals' oil to apply on the body for healing joints and backache etc. A doctor also should not unnecessarily prescribe haram medicines. As for the effects of haram foodstuffs, there is no doubt that they affect the consumer's success and spiritual progress.

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