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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Making Medicines Taste Better

We have all experienced the terrible taste of some medicines, and most people just grin and bear it. But for some segments of society, such as the very young and the very old, the bad taste will result in the medication not being taken as often as it should, or even not at all. This presents the formulation scientist with a serious problem: how can this medicine be formulated to taste better? Making it taste better is known in the industry as 'taste masking', and there are several different ways to achieve this.

Taste masking can be divided into three different mechanistic approaches:

1. Hide the taste - do something that covers it up
2. Change the taste - do something to make it taste different
3. Reduce the taste - do something so that the drug does not dissolve in the mouth so that it cannot be tasted

Which method will work best depends on a number of variables, including: the type of formulation; how bad the API tastes; what type of taste the API has; and what type of release profile is needed once it has been swallowed. Often multiple methods are combined to give the desired result.

Hide the Taste

Cover the Taste with Pleasant Flavours
This is probably the oldest, best known and most common method. However, except for certain guidelines, the selection of the masking flavour is predominantly done by trial and error (1,2). For example, aspartame reduces the bitterness of acetaminophen, fenchone can mask the taste of eucalyptus oil, and a combination of sugars, apple flavours and amino acids reduce the bitterness of vitamins. Remington's (3) has an excellent summary of flavours and their uses, and includes discussions based on the main objectionable flavour categories of salty, bitter, sour and oily. The main limitations of this approach are that there may not be a suitable masking flavour and that people's perception of taste varies dramatically, so that what masks the taste for one person may not work for someone else. Therefore this is an intrinsically subjective approach.

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By Dr Lyn Hughes, Global Technical Services Manager for Healthcare at Rohm and Hass

Dr Lyn Hughes is a graduate of King's College, University of London. He joined Rohm and Haas in 1977, working in technical support for acrylic monomer manufacturing, and then joined the research division of the ion exchange resins business in 1989. Since that time, he has focused on the pharmaceutical applications of the resins, in particular their use in pharmaceutical formulations. In his current role he is responsible for providing technical support globally for the ion exchange resin health care products and technologies. He is a member of the AAPS.
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