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Scientists Use Gel to Make Pill Swallowing Easier for Children

Scientists Use Gel to Make Pill Swallowing Easier for Children

Wednesday, 1 June, 2022 - 07:00
Pharmaceutical tablets and capsules are arranged on a table in a photo illustration shot September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/Illustration/File Photo

For most children and even some adults, swallowing pills or tablets is difficult. To make it easier to give those medicines, researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have created a drug-delivering gel to facilitate pills swallowing. The findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Science Advances.

The gels, made from plant-based oils such as sesame oil, can be prepared with a variety of textures, from a thickened beverage to a yogurt-like substance.

“The gels are stable without refrigeration, which could make them easier to get to children in developing nations. They could also help adults who have difficulty swallowing pills, such as older people or people who have suffered a stroke,” the researchers explain in a report published on MIT website.

Nearly 10 years ago, while working on other kinds of ingestible drug-delivery systems, the research team started to think about new ways to make it easier for children to take medications that are normally given as pills.

There are existing strategies that can help with this, but none is a perfect solution. Some antibiotics and other drugs can be suspended in water, but that requires clean water to be available, and the drugs need to be refrigerated after being mixed. Also, this strategy doesn’t work for drugs that are not soluble in water.

To try to address those issues, the researchers set out to develop a new drug-delivery system that would be inexpensive, palatable, stable at extreme temperatures, and compatible with many different drugs. They also wanted to make sure that drugs would not need to be mixed with water.

Because they wanted their formulation to work with drugs that can’t be dissolved in water, the researchers decided to focus on oil-based gels. Such gels, also known as oleogels, are commonly used in the food industry to change the texture of oily foods, and also to raise the melting point of chocolate and ice cream.

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