December 15, 2021
Capsules and tablets are widely manufactured and prescribed as common dosage forms because of ease of storage, portability, accuracy in dosing, and ease of administration. But physical characteristics such as the size and shape of the capsule or tablet, can affect patient compliance in their ability to swallow. And dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is a problem for many individuals who try and take capsules and tablets. Here are the things to know about what make tablets the easiest medication to swallow.
What are tablets?
Tablets are the most common type of pill. These medications are made by compressing one or more powdered ingredients into a smooth, solid pill. They also come in uncoated and coated forms. When ingested, the tablet will break down in the digestive tract to deliver medication. As the tablet metabolizes it travels to the liver and gets distributed to target areas of the body.
Individuals often cite the size of tablets as the main reason for the difficulty in swallowing, as that is what affects the transit of the product through the pharynx and esophagus. Larger capsules and tablets have a prolonged esophageal transit time. Adverse events can include pain, gagging, choking, or aspiration. This can also cause the medication to disintegrate and result in injuries to the esophagus such as esophagitis, ulceration, stricture, and perforation. Most patient complaints and difficulties occur with tablet sizes larger than 8mm in diameter.
The shape of tablets can also impact the ease of swallowing. Tablets can be disc-shaped, round, or oblong. Certain shapes also seem to be easier to swallow than others. For example, flat tablets are likely to have greater adherence to the esophagus. For this reason, many chewable tablets are disc-shaped whereas tablets meant to be swallowed are more often oblong or round. And when comparing tablets of the same weight, oval-shaped tablets have faster transit times compared to round-shaped tablets.
Pros and cons of tablets
The benefits of tablets include price, durability, and more concentrated dosages. Tablets can also be split for smaller dosages or easier swallowing, where capsules cannot. A few disadvantages of tablets are these medications tend to be slower acting, are less palatable, and are more likely to cause irritation.
What tablet is easiest to swallow?
What is the most efficient and easiest pill to swallow? Researches used nuclear medicine cameras to study the passage of medication from the mouth to the lower GI tract to compare the swallowability of uncoated tablets, film-coated tablets, caplets, hard-shelled capsules, and soft-shelled capsules. They found that film-covered, oval-shaped tablets demonstrated the fewest cases of slow transit in the esophagus. These were the least likely to cause swallowing problems and the easiest for most patients to swallow.