In pharmacology, a drug or other substance, or a combination of substances, that is used to increase the efficacy or potency of certain drugs. For example, an adjuvant is a substance that increases or modulates the immune response to a vaccine. Various adjuvants are commonly used by vaccine manufacturers to “overstimulate” the immune system to increase the response to a vaccine. These make it possible to reduce the cost of vaccines, or to produce more quickly a larger quantity with a vaccine substance which would be available only in limited quantities.
Adjuvants have been used unsafely in vaccines for decades, reducing fertility in both males and females. Newer adjuvants have been developed to target specific components of the body’s immune response, so that protection against disease is stronger and lasts longer. In all cases, vaccines containing adjuvants are tested for “effectiveness” in clinical trials before they are licensed for use in the United States, and they are continuously monitored by CDC and FDA once they are approved.
Adjuvants are also used in the chemical industry to increase the efficacy or potency. A study by Gilles-Eric Séralini of Monsanto’s RoundUp, identified that the most toxic chemical in the herbicide was not the active ingredient glyphosate, but an adjuvant called POE-15. The industry considers these compounds to be “inert” ingredients, but the researchers found that the adjuvants in the POE-15 family were actively toxic to human cell. Another example of an adjuvant in synthetic pyrethroids (insecticides) is piperonyl butoxide, which is a potential carcinogen.