Say good-bye to hard-to-swallow pills -

Say good-bye to hard-to-swallow pills

In the future, we’ll be consuming fast-dissolving, flavoured film strips the size of postage stamps

Bye-bye, jagged little pill

Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

Have trouble swallowing those not-so-little pills that so often get stuck in your throat? Soon, a range of prescription medications may also be available in thin, fast-dissolving films the size of a postage stamp, likely mint or watermelon flavoured—just like the breath-freshener films available at corner stores. Using flavoured films instead of pills is not a new thing—over-the-counter cold and heartburn medications have been using films for several years—but it’s still quite limited for prescription drugs. Now, a group of companies, including IntelGenx, a Quebec firm specializing in drug delivery systems, is working to adapt the use of oral-strip technology to prescription medication. They expect their migraine film to hit the market in two years, says Horst Zerbe, IntelGenx president and CEO.

Besides the migraine oral strip, the Montreal-based company is also working on fast-dissolving films for insomnia, motion sickness, even erectile dysfunction. Zerbe says the oral strips, which melt in the mouth in a matter of seconds, release the active ingredients of a drug much faster than pills or tablets—a better choice for cancer patients in acute pain, or the sleep-deprived, who, late at night, need fast-acting tonics. They’re also more practical for travellers on buses and planes who don’t have ready access to a glass of water, and those, like the elderly, who have more difficulty swallowing pills and tablets. The company is also working on a time-release film that adheres to the gums and controls the release of the appropriate amount of medication over several hours, which may eliminate the need for multiple pills.

While pills often leave a bitter flavour when being washed down with water, oral strips can be engineered to have different flavours. Perhaps their best use, however, lies in tricking patients who are notorious for avoiding swallowing medication: children and pets. “They’re very creative at hiding it from you and then spitting it out,” says Zerbe. Tests on medication films for dogs “have worked very well,” he says, especially the flavoured films. No doubt Fido would prefer having a ham-flavoured film melt in his mouth than be force-fed yet another bitter pill.


Say good-bye to hard-to-swallow pills

  1. There is already something called “Zydis” form for some oral prescription medications…it is a technology for a dissolving pill.  The downside is that you have to be careful about holding the pill in your fingers…it starts breaking down due to the heat & moisture in your hands.  The pills also crumble easily and is difficult to cut into measured portions.  These items have to be individually bubble packed and the person ideally never touchs the med because that affects the dosage (if the thing starts disentigrating before it reaches the mouth, the dose is compromised).  I am curious about whether these easily dissolved films have the same issues.

    • From speaking with the company their product is much more stable than the fast dissolving tablets, so you have made an extremely important point

  2. There are some OTC products already available in this film format, such as for indigestion/gas and cough. They are very convenient to carry and are very stable and tough, and do not dissolve readily onto moist hands. They are about as thick as a piece of tissue paper but difficult to tear; you could cut them readily with scissors and they would cut smoothly. They take a couple of minutes to fully dissolve on the tongue. 

  3. One of the big challenges is the drug loading on these strips. Many can only take a few MG per strip and an accurate dose of some drugs would require a stack of them. If they have a technology to increase bioavailability of the drugs then I think they might have a chance to succeed where many others haven’t.

  4. My daughter is no longer having issues swollowing pills since she started using the Oral flow cup. Its a simple cup with a special angle pill holder which helps her swallow easily on the first try. We bought it in Canada from they shipped it quickly and it works! consider it an option for sure.