Hate Swallowing Pills? New Gel Could Help

Gel made from gellan gum could deliver medication with delayed release

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) There may be help on the way for those who have trouble swallowing pills.

That help may come in the form of a gel commonly used in food products like desserts, according to a new study. This gel could be much easier to swallow than a pill, and unlike liquid medicines, it could also delay release of drugs so that they can have their maximum effect, said the authors of this study.

Bill Swail, RPh, founder of Peoples Rx in Austin, TX, told dailyRx News that this gel shows some promise, but the new delivery method is in early stages of development, so it is hard to tell what it could mean for patients.

The gel is made from gellan gum, a natural sugar. The discovery that it could potentially be used to deliver medication in those who can't swallow pills — such as the very young or old — came from a project headed by Dr. Alan Smith, who runs a lab at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom that specializes in pharmaceutical research.

Dr. Smith and colleagues tested the gel and found that it delayed the release of ibuprofen (brand names Advil and Motrin) in patients who had trouble swallowing pills.

Further research could look at tuning these gels to the conditions of individual patients' stomachs, which could optimize the delayed release of medications, Dr. Smith and team said.

As this gel is not yet available to patients, Swail shared some other methods used by patients who find it difficult to swallow pills.

"There are glass bottles that you can buy to get the tongue out of the way," he said. "Some pharmacists also can grind up pills, put them in a suspension, and patients can just take that supsension, which is likely cheaper than this gel would be."

Swail also said that certain medications, including many antifungals and antibiotics, can be administered as topicals (products applied to the skin).

This study was published April 23 in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Funding and conflict of interest information was not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
April 23, 2015
Last Updated:
April 28, 2015