Tablets & Capsules is the only technical publication devoted exclusively to readers involved in the tablet and capsule processing industries.
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Cost is a major factor when deciding whether to use a tablet or capsule. But don’t let cost obscure the “big picture,” including better patient adherence with capsules.
Oftentimes, when deciding whether to formulate a drug product or diet­ary supplement in capsule or tablet form, manufacturers and brand owners fail to consider all the variables, the “big picture.” Instead they focus on single factors, such as production speed, thinking high speed will lower costs and raise profits.

That’s not always the case. There are other important considerations that, when taken into account, make capsules a much more attractive choice—from a financial, operational, and marketing perspective.

From a financial perspective, it is important to consider all costs. In fact, those who understand the numerous differences between a capsule filling operation and a tabletting operation understand the importance of a comprehensive cost review. Some of the costs include capital in­vestments in equipment (i.e., financing and depreciation costs) and total operating costs, including validation costs, analytical costs, and inventory costs. Often, when all costs are taken into consideration, capsules are the more attractive choice over tablets and other dosage forms.

Aside from the financial considerations, there are some generally ac­cepted advantages of using capsules over other dosage forms. For manufacturers and formulators, using capsules means fewer excipients, faster development, fewer manufacturing steps, and more formulation flexibility. For patients, capsules mean better taste masking, less gastrointestinal irritation, and greater ease in swallowing.

Let’s focus on consumer/patient preference. Over the last 20 years, several studies have evaluated patient/consumer preference for capsules versus other oral dosage forms.

In a study conducted by Burke Marketing Research, 1,000 patients were asked about the form of drug administration they preferred. More than half (54 percent) chose the capsule, and only 13 percent preferred the tablet. (Twenty-nine percent chose the dragée, and 4 percent were undecided.)

Another study [1], conducted with several hundred patients in two hospitals in Copenhagen, found that 66 percent preferred capsules, 18 percent coated tablets, and 4 percent uncoated tablets (total of 22 percent for tablets). Three times as many patients preferred capsules! A secondary, yet relevant, finding of that same study: Patients taking multiple medications a day preferred colored dosage forms as a way to distinguish their medications. In fact, color is the attribute that most helps patients identify different drug products, followed by name, dosage form, shape, and size.

In a third study [2], this one involving dialysis patients, 90 percent of participants preferred capsules over tablets.

Yet another study [3] showed that ease of swallowing was the primary reason that 74 percent of consumers of herbal products preferred two-piece capsules over tablets.

Last, but not least, a fifth study [4] looked at solid dosage forms used in psychiatric practice. It found that patients in England taking capsule dosage forms consumed them more consistently, requested continuation of their medication more regularly, and reported a greater placebo effect (felt that the capsule form of the same medication had a greater positive effect). Today, most clinical trials of psychiatric medications require that the medications be in capsule form.

In addition to showing that capsules are perceived as more effective, this last study revealed that capsules boost compliance, a measure of how closely patients/consumers follow the dosing regimen. The best drug product or supplement may be useless if not taken properly. Thus high compliance is critical to the effectiveness (and financial success) of drug products and supplements.

Finally, from a marketing perspective, capsules offer unique opportunities for product/brand identification and differentiation, since the color com­binations and printing options are endless, a benefit that other dosage forms can’t match.

Conclusion

Manufacturers often select tablets over capsules for cost reasons, but when all the variables are taken into account, tablets may not be the cheaper option. Additionally, capsules offer key advantages for formulators, manufacturers, physicians, patients, and health-supplement consumers. These advantages can significantly increase the likelihood of success of your prescription and over-the-counter drug products and dietary supplements.

References

  1. Overgaard A.B.A., Højsted J., Hansen R., Møller-Sonnergaard J., Christrup L.L. Patients’ evaluation of shape, size and colour of solid dosage forms. Pharmacy World & Science, October 2001. 23(5):185-188.
  2. Kaplan MR, Stashenko CLL, Bledsoe AL, McGowan J. A preference study: calcium acetate tablets versus gelcaps in hemodialysis patients. Nephrololgy Nursing Journal, July 2002. 4:363-365.
  3. Povlin Research Group. “Consumer Preference for Solid Oral Dosage Forms.”
  4. Hussain MZ. Effect of shape of medication in treatment of anxiety states. British Journal of Psychiatry, May 1972. 120(558):507-509.


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About the author
Eilemberg, Gabriel
Gabriel Eilemberg is executive vice president at Caps­Canada, Pompano Beach, FL 33069. Tel. 954 979 6440. Website: www.capscanada.com.

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