Create brand sustainability with softgel technology
Gone are the days when medical consumers would settle for just one formulation of a medication. With so many choices readily available for all kinds of consumer products today, people expect—even demand—having choices in prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some want caplets, others prefer chewables and many prefer softgels.
Indeed, smart medication brand managers know that today, there is no one "typical customer" for their product, says Kaspar van den Dries, PhD, senior director at Patheon, a leading contract development and manufacturing organization.
The good news is that currently available dosage form technologies mean that many drugs can be offered in several formats, meeting the diverse personal preferences of a wide variety of consumers.
Brand managers who want to meet those diverse consumer preferences—and potentially extend the lifecycle of their products—would be wise to keep an eye on some emerging trends that are shaping society and the pharmaceutical industry, advises van den Dries.
The Global Population is Aging
There’s no doubt: around the world, people are living longer. Most people can now expect to live into their 60s, at least. And that is causing a significant shift in global demographics. While there are now about 900 million people aged 60 or older (12% of the population), over the next three decades that will rise to about 2 billion people, or 22% of the population.
Older people tend to take more medications than others do, but with age comes medication challenges. “Many older people have trouble swallowing,” says van den Dries. "Among those with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, more than 50% typically have trouble swallowing."
Another consideration: 12% of people aged 65 and older routinely take 10 or more drugs each week. Finding drugs that are easy to ingest is particularly important for those who need to take several medications each day.
Not being able to take medications properly, not surprisingly, can lead to serious health issues. In fact, some 140,000 older adults die every year as a result of taking medication improperly.
The answer for many older people is softgel formulations, which many find easier to swallow than tablets or caplets. Softgels can also be a better option than liquids, which can be messy when handled by people whose hands are not as steady as they once were.
Brand Loyalty is Under Threat
Consumers want more dose formula choices in their prescription and OTC drugs, and they won’t hesitate to switch to a different brand if it offers what they want.
And consumers do have many choices now. While in years past a drug might have been available only as a large tablet, many are now available as chewable tablets, softgel capsules, chewable gels and many other forms. Other new formulations incorporate enteric properties in the gelatin shells, ensuring the drug is released in the small intestine, minimizing the risk of gastric irritation.
Smart brand managers are racing to take advantage of these new technologies, to meet the diverse needs and desires of all their current and potential customers.
"Brand managers who can offer their products in a variety of options are more likely to stand out in the market, retain their current customers and attract new customers," says Tony van Bijleveld, head of the Softgels Business Unit at Patheon. "They can significantly increase their product’s lifecycle."
The drugs that are growing the most in market share are those that incorporate some type of innovation, says van Bijleveld. Medications that use Patheon’s patented chewable gel formulation are a good example. New to the market, Patheon’s Chewels® can be formulated with various sensory properties and are attractive to both older people and children who have trouble swallowing.
Another emerging innovation: formulations that deter abuse. In the midst of the global opioid crisis, having available abuse deterrent softgel technologies would ensure medication cannot be broken open and ingested incorrectly.
"Too often, brand managers are not aware of the advantages of softgels," says van Bijleveld. These formulations offer improved bioavailability, significant load capacity and precise control of drug release, he says. Softgels can also mask the unpleasant taste and odor posed by some medications.
"We encourage brand managers to talk with us about new softgel options for their drugs,” says van Bijleveld. “We thrive on open brainstorming and developing partnerships that can increase your market exposure and significantly extend the life cycle of your brands."
Learn more about how Patheon’s dose formulations, including a variety of softgel options, could extend the lifecycle of your drug.