|Courtesy of Colorcon|
The FDA's new guidelines for pill design may be the stick driving drugmakers to consider medication errors when blueprinting their drugs. But there's a carrot, too. With new tablet technologies, companies have more freedom to build their brands by making their pills distinctive.
It's sort of like marketing in a bottle. We all know about Pfizer's ($PFE) blue-diamond-shaped Viagra, and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) "little purple pill," Nexium. And there are plenty of other opportunities to turn a tablet into a marketing piece, Outsourcing-Pharma reports.
GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), for instance, has a "tilt-tab" designed to make its Parkinson's disease drug Requip easier to pick up. Parkinson's patients often have trouble grabbing their pills off tabletops. GSK's tablet has five sides and a pointed fulcrum that keeps it from lying flat.
Colorcon, which works with drugmakers to shape and coat their pills, has a library of pill samples in 40,000 different colors and multifarious shapes. Convex triangles, faceted diamonds, peanut shapes--the company even tried a heart-shaped pill for a cardiac drug, but patients didn't like the regular reminder of their heart disease.
Other reminders can be helpful, though. The company has printed dosing directions on a tablet's surface--once a day--to help patients remember how to comply with their prescriptions.
Pfizer has obviously found that design can help a brand. In addition to Viagra's diamond tablet, the company developed a chewable version of the drug for the Mexican market, where some men had trouble swallowing the pill. After the new version, Viagra Jet, rolled out, a study found that men thought it worked faster and lasted longer than the original--despite the fact, study authors said, that it actually didn't.
- read the Outsourcing-Pharma piece
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