New Techniques May Help the Medicine Go Down

Pop bottle and lean forward methods for swallowing pills were both effective

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Some patients swallow pills without a second thought, but others have trouble. Of those who have trouble, 1 in 3 vomit, gag or choke when they try to swallow a pill, according to past research. But two new pill-swallowing methods may help these patients.

In a new study, German researchers documented their tests of two techniques for swallowing pills: the pop-bottle method and the lean-forward technique.

The patients in the study reported significant improvement in their ability to swallow pills when they used these techniques.

The pop-bottle method worked best with tablets. In this method, patients place the tablet in their mouth, close their lips around the opening of a plastic drink bottle and take a drink from the bottle to swallow the pill.

The second method — the lean-forward technique — worked well for capsules. For this technique, patients stand upright with their heads bent forward. Then, they swallow the capsule from that position.

Walter E. Haefeli, MD, of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, conducted the tests on the two techniques with colleagues. To do so, Dr. Haefeli and team asked 151 German adults to swallow 16 pills of different shapes. All of the pills were placebo, or fake, pills.

The researchers asked the patients to report how much trouble they had with swallowing each type of pill. Then, they asked the patients to try once more to swallow the two pills that gave them the most trouble — only this time, they used one of the two new techniques.

If the patients had trouble swallowing a tablet, they used the pop-bottle method. If a capsule was difficult for them, they used the lean-forward technique.

The lean-forward technique was the most effective — 88.6 percent of people who used it with hard-to-swallow capsules reported less difficulty.

The pop-bottle method also worked well. The researchers found that 59.7 percent of the people who used this technique with troublesome tablets saw improvement.

Based on the results, the researchers said doctors should recommend the new, "remarkably effective" techniques to patients. Dr. Haefeli and colleagues noted that the pop-bottle method may increase the risk of drawing the pill into the respiratory tract. They said patients should ask their doctors before trying this method.

This study was published Nov. 10 in Annals of Family Medicine.

Several sources funded the study, such as Schwarzenbek Germany, FMC BioPolymer and Capsugel Belgium. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.


Review Date: 
November 11, 2014
Last Updated:
November 12, 2014