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What if I can't swallow a pill?

Published: May 30, 2014 04:30 PM

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about switching to an easier-to-swallow version of your medication, such as a chewable tablet, liquid, or a dissolvable form. And since size might be to blame, you could ask whether the same medication is available in a smaller size pill or even a different shape. Studies suggest oval tablets may be easier to swallow and travel faster down the esophagus than round tablets of the same weight. And similarly, flatter tablets are preferred over capsule-shaped ones.

There might even be a topical product you can use instead of a pill, for instance a skin patchspray, or cream.

If switching to another form of your drug is not an option, splitting or crushing your pills might be a good choice. But some tablets, such as extended or delayed-release, should not be, said Barbara Young, Pharm.D., editor of consumer medication information for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Doing so could cause irritation or even dangerous side effects. Be sure to get your doctor or pharmacist’s OK and instructions before you try this.

“If your doctor or pharmacist gives you the go-ahead to crush or split your pills,” Young said, “mixing the medication in a small amount of soft food, such as apple sauce, ice cream, or pudding, may help to ‘make the medicine go down’.”

But check with your doctor or pharmacist before doing so since some foods may not mix well with your medication.


—Ginger Skinner

Editor's Note:

This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

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