Study: More than half of people report swallowing difficulties with capsules/tablets
PULLACH, Germany — More than 55% of people suffer from swallowing difficulties when taking tablets or capsules, which is likely to inhibit compliance, according to an international survey conducted by Spiegel Institute Mannheim on behalf of Hermes Pharma.
“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,” stated Thomas Hein, director business development and regulatory affairs at Hermes Pharma. “Given the weaknesses exhibited by conventional tablets and capsules, there is a significant opportunity to capture market share by formulating user-friendly dosage forms."
The survey targeted 1,000 people in the United States and Germany — together more than 2,000 — tailored to reflect overall population demographics in terms of age, gender and ethnicity, and to generate statistically reliable data.
The oral route is considered a simple and cost-efficient way of delivery, with most pharmaceutical products and food/dietary supplements traditionally formulated as solid tablets or capsules. However, consumer habits and demands are changing. Today’s patients have grown accustomed to having freedom of choice and the benefits of convenience. They also enjoy instant access to a wealth of information, leading them to request specific products and treatments. 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.
Over half of the people surveyed (50% in the United States; 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 ages 16 to 34 years 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.
In order to overcome these difficulties, participants had turned to breaking tablets before swallowing (32% overall) or crushing them up and dissolving them in water (17% overall), both of which can affect bioavailability and medical efficacy. As many as 8% resorted to not taking their medication at all.
Participants were 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 such characteristics 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, the report stated. Designing dosage forms to target different cultures, ages and preferences provides a means of better meeting the needs of specific market subsets. By creating user-friendly dosage forms, companies can differentiate themselves from competition, expand existing product lines, prolong product lifecycles, increase customer loyalty and at the same time increase revenues, according to the report.