There’s a mid-70’s song from Paul Simon that talks about Fifty Ways to… in this case, …leave your lover. When we think of different ways to take medicine, we tend to think about medicines we swallow like liquids or syrups and pills. There are other methods and pathways through which our bodies can take in medicine, for example, the skin via creams and ointments, eye and ear drops, nose sprays, as well as via the back passage (rectum) and vagina.
Pharmacists and pharmacologists – the professionals who design drugs and how they’re administered – decide what form to use. This is based on how they work: how our bodies absorb them and their therapeutic effect. In other words, how they make you better, and the part of the body (site) that needs treating.
Then, the medication form will also affect how long it takes your body to break it down and for how long it works – is effective. For example, skin patches and extended-release tablets release drugs slowly into your body, so that they are longer lasting.1
Add all those factors together and, like the song, there must be fifty ways to administer medication. In this article, we’ll look at some of the different forms of oral medication. Even when you take medicine via your mouth, there are many different forms. Including paracetamol.
How oral medications work
The digestive tract or gut is the part of the body that absorbs medicines that you take orally – through your mouth. The digestive tract includes the membranes of the mouth, so if your medical practitioner tells you to suck a tablet, or put it under your tongue because it confers a faster onset of action – in your mouth. Similarly, tablets you swallow may be designed to release the drug into the lower parts of the digestive tract like the stomach or intestine which we discuss below.
Different forms of oral medication
Powdered medicines are either swallowed as a powder or mixed with water to make a drink which is sometimes fizzy. Think of the powder that grandpa/babu takes for his headache: this is a powdered painkiller that he takes with water – because it is faster acting than a pill. Remember to only mix powdered medicines with water or other liquids if instructed to do so.
Mums are familiar with paracetamol syrups for children. Liquids are easy for children and older people to take and can be flavoured to make the medicine taste better. Some of the benefits of liquid medicine is that it’s easy to swallow. However you must use a medicine-measuring spoon or syringe, to be certain of the correct dosage.
Tablets are solid medicines that contain the exact dosage of the medicine that you need, which is one of the major advantages of pills. There is a range of different types of pills that although they are classed as oral medications, you take them differently, and they work differently (see below).
Pills can include more than one active ingredient as is the case, for example with flu remedies that include, among other things, paracetamol. Tablets have the added advantage of longer shelf life and convenience because they’re small and easy to carry around (transport).
In addition to the active ingredient (drug or medicine), effervescent tablets contain substances like citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (salt). When you drop the tablet in water, the fizz makes carbon dioxide bubbles. This helps to dissolve the tablet and release the medicine so that your body absorbs it more quickly. This type of tablet has the added advantage of potentially including a flavour that encourages people – especially children – to take their medicine.3
This is what makes Cipladon effervescent paracetamol tablets such a great option: it comes in two strengths, 1000mg, and 500mg tablets, and the 500mg tablets are sweetened with aspartame.
Benefits of Cipladon 500 for children
Cipladon 500 is easy to give, tastes great, and relieves pain and fever faster. It is the perfect solution for children over 8 years old who –
- are too old for syrup and too young for tablets
- suffer from pill swallowing anxiety
In short, and as we always say, Cipladon is easy to give, tastes great, and relieves pain and fever f-f-faster!
As the name suggests, these are tablets that you chew to break down into smaller pieces. These tablets are also great for kids who haven’t learned how to swallow pills and for older people who have difficulty with swallowing. Two advantages are that you don’t need water to take them, and they also act relatively quickly. Some chewable tablets, however, need special storage and don’t taste very good.
Tablets that go under the tongue
Sublingual tablets that you put under your tongue dissolve quickly so that the medicine is absorbed through the membranes in the mouth to work very quickly. Nitroglycerine which doctors prescribe for some heart problems is usually a fast-acting sublingual tablet.
As we mentioned, sometimes tablets need to pass from the mouth, into the stomach and/or intestine before they can work. These pills need a special coating to stop them from dissolving before they reach the right place in your gut. Tablets with these polymer coatings are also called enteric-coated tablets. This dosage form is often used for antibiotics.
Capsules are pods or shells made from gelatine to form a pill. These shells break down in the stomach and release the medication. One of the advantages of the capsule is that it often has no taste making it easier for people to take.
A last word or two
If you have questions about why your health care practitioner prescribes a particular dosage form, talk to them. Ask why. Discuss your concerns with them as well as the type of dosage form that you feel is best for you.
Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.
- Powel Key, A., Berger, D (reviewer) 2020. What are the different types of pills? SingleCare Administrators [Online] Available from <https://www.singlecare.com/blog/pill-form/> 20/09/2022
- Modi, J., Ngo-Hamilton, H-V (reviewer) 2022. What Are The Different Forms of Medications? BuzzRx.com [Online] Available from <https://www.buzzrx.com/blog/what-are-the-different-forms-of-medications> 20/09/2022
- Claude Dubray, Philippe Maincent & Jean Yves Milon. 2021. From the pharmaceutical to the clinical: the case for effervescent paracetamol in pain management. A narrative review, Current Medical Research and Opinion, 37:6, 1039-1048, DOI: 10.1080/03007995.2021.1902297<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33819115/> 20/09/2022