The oral route of administering medicines remains the most common for many reasons including cost, convenience and public familiarity. Of the oral dosage forms available, tablets and capsules are often the most well known and therefore the default choice for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. However, swallowing is a complex process and data from a recent market study has shown that more than half of the population experiences difficulties swallowing tablets and capsules, a factor that can seriously impact on compliance. While alternative routes that exploit developments in drug delivery technology have become increasingly popular over the last two decades, including the transdermal and inhalation routes, the cost of these is significantly higher than oral medicines, where a wide range of low-cost generic alternatives is also available.
In this article Dr. Thomas Hein reviews how the swallowing process works, the challenges this poses for patients and pharmaceutical companies, and how these can be overcome by developing oral dosage forms that are cost-efficient and more user-friendly.