Hermes Pharma, a company specializing in the development and production of user-friendly solid oral dosage forms, announced findings from a survey seeking to explore the nature of difficulties in swallowing tablets and its impact on patients. The study, conducted by a third-party provider, Spiegel Institut Mannheim, targeted 1,000 people in the United States and Germany and had more than 2000 respondents. The survey was designed to reflect overall population demographics in age, gender and ethnicity.
The results showed that more than 55% of people from all age groups and genders experience swallowing difficulties when taking tablets or capsules. Swallowing difficulties are likely to negatively affect patient compliance with their medications, which means that pharmaceutical products will need to take into account patient needs to be effective and being easy to swallow is just one aspect in formulation development.
The oral route is considered a simple and cost-efficient way of drug delivery, with most pharmaceutical products and food/dietary supplements traditionally formulated as solid tablets or capsules. However, consumer habits and demands are changing. Patients not only have a range of products to choose from but are today, recognizing the benefits of convenience offered by novel dosage forms.
To deliver medical and commercial success, pharmaceutical products will need to appeal to a wider range of preferences, from treatment needs through to lifestyle requirements. Entitled A Hard Truth to Swallow, the study found that conventional tablets and capsules exhibit a range of drawbacks and may no longer be the best solution for large segments of the population.
Difficulties swallowing tablets are widespread
More than half of the people surveyed (50% in the US and more than 60% in Germany) reported difficulties when swallowing tablets or capsules. Some 44% of participants 65 years or older were affected and interestingly, an even greater number (70%) of younger people aged 16–34 also reported this problem. A wide variety of reasons were cited, but the most frequent were related to tablets or capsules being too large to swallow, becoming stuck in the throat and having an unpleasant taste or odor.
It was found that people often resolved these difficulties by breaking tablets before ingesting them (32% overall) or crushing the pills up and dissolving them in water (17%), both of which can affect API release profile, bioavailability and medical efficacy. Worryingly, 8% resorted to not taking their medication at all.
Participants were also asked to evaluate tablets/capsules and alternative user-friendly dosage forms, such as effervescent and chewable tablets, instant drinks, orally-disintegrating granules and lozenges based on their experience. They consistently scored conventional tablets and capsules lower on characteristics such as ease of swallowing, sensation in the mouth, package opening and ease of intake.
Introducing products that are easy to swallow, convenient to take and taste well is likely to improve patient experience, increase compliance and boost the effectiveness of treatment. Designing dosage forms to target different cultures, ages and preferences provides a means of better meeting the needs of specific patient populations. By creating user-friendly dosage forms, companies can differentiate themselves from competition, expand existing product lines, prolong product lifecycles, breed customer loyalty and at the same time increase revenues.
“By offering an active ingredient solely as a tablet or capsule, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies ignore the needs of more than 50% of their target audience,” said Dr Thomas Hein, director, Business Development and Regulatory Affairs, Hermes Pharma, in a press statement. “Given the weaknesses exhibited by conventional tablets and capsules, there is a significant opportunity to capture market share by formulating user-friendly dosage forms.