Swallowing tablets a problem for growing numbers of people

User-friendly dosage forms enable pharmaceutical companies to innovate

While the pharmaceutical industry concentrates on developing new, ever more effective compounds, the basic needs of patients go often ignored.

Historically, because of low cost, simplicity and public familiarity, oral application became the main route for drug delivery. However, even if swallowing is usually an automatic physiological process it can be difficult for many people. Various studies show that up to 50% of adults over 60 are affected by dysphagia; in nursing homes its incidence has been put as high as 75%.

Swallowing difficulties increase with age and pose particular problems for older patients, who represent the largest group of tablet-takers. Difficulties can occur in all age groups especially with people on long-term medication and children who commonly have a high sensitivity to bitter-tasting substances and have difficulty in swallowing adult-sized tablets - factors that play a role in their adherence to medication.

Making medicines more user-friendly helps to improve patient acceptability and leads to increased compliance

‘Making medicines more user-friendly helps to improve patient acceptability and leads to increased compliance,’ says Dr Thomas Hein, Director Sales & Business Development, Hermes Pharma. ‘We have embraced the concept of user-friendliness in household electronics and consumer goods; now is the time to address the needs of those who are burdened by illness and motivated by convenience and alternatives.’

Germany-based Hermes Pharma has been making pharmaceuticals user-friendly for more than 40 years. The company develops and manufactures effervescent tablets and granules, chewable tablets, lozenges, orally disintegrating granules and instant drinks - dosage forms that offer a number of advantages. They taste good, although the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) may be bitter, and they come with a choice of flavours. They are easy to swallow – even for people suffering from dysphagia.

Moreover they are more easily ingested – even if the dosage form contains large amounts of APIs or is large in size. API absorption and bioavailability are often higher and onset of action faster than with conventional dosage forms. They can be taken with or without water, or other liquids, to suit individual preferences. They are convenient to take along to work, school, sports or elsewhere. Finally, user-friendly dosage forms can lead to reduced dosing frequency, higher patient acceptance and compliance and ultimately healthier lives.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers can produce the best API in the world, but if the patient can’t bear to swallow a tablet, treatment will be compromised

‘Pharmaceutical manufacturers can produce the best API in the world, but if the patient can’t bear to swallow a tablet, treatment will be compromised. Acceptability, choice, convenience and heightened compliance make user-friendly dosage forms not only very attractive to patients, consumers and physicians - for the pharmaceutical industry they represent an as yet overlooked way to innovate,’ explains Dr Hein.

As the pharmaceutical industry struggles to adapt to a fast-moving and ever more complex global environment, a line extension that revolves around the innovative modification of a product offers significant benefits, ranging from enhanced product lifecycle management and extended IP protection to improved return on investment and stronger brand loyalty.

However, bringing user-friendly dosage forms successfully to market requires specific know-how in formulation, scale-up, compounding, tabletting, packaging and marketing. It is essential to understand the characteristics and requirements of the drug substance during product design, to choose and source the right excipients and to mask effectively the often unpleasant taste of the API.

Besides protecting the product, packaging itself requires specific expertise when it needs to be child-resistant but senior-friendly

Effervescent products, for example, need to be handled in low humidity environments to ensure maximum stability, as moisture can accidentally trigger the effervescent reaction. To avoid degradation, turnaround times need to be kept as short as possible and the final product should be packaged inline. Besides protecting the product, packaging itself requires specific expertise when it needs to be child-resistant but senior-friendly.

Whether in developing new product ideas and formulations or manufacturing and regulatory support, Hermes Pharma is an internationally recognised expert. The company leverages its long-standing expertise of its own Over-The-Counter (OTC) business to offer new and market-proven product concepts to third parties.

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Hermes Pharma (more information, website)