Sunday, November 6, 2011

Success through sensory experiences


Pharmaceutical products, traditionally have not been associated with a positive sensory experience. If at all, the top-of-the-mind recall word for a medicine, is bitter! In fact, in earlier times it was also considered an appropriate attribute of a true pharmaceutical product - a pharma product was expected to taste unpleasant! A good medicine was supposed to taste bitter or offer a rather unpleasant experience. Homoeopathic products were the only exceptions - since they used sugar pills to deliver the medicament.

With competition coming of age and patient preference becoming more towards a pleasant experience while taking medicaments, the time has certainly come in the Indian pharma market to see if the sensorial qualities of a formulation can be tweaked to offer a competitive edge. A pharma product with a better taste, aroma, mouth-feel and after-taste will certainly have improved patient compliance, with low desertion index.

The other drug attribute, affecting patient acceptance - is the side-effect profile. When a drug offers unpleasant sensory experience and has many side-effects, it will certainly have a patient unfriendly image. To make a medicine formulation, patient-friendly, it ought to have a positive sensory appeal and a low side-effect profile.

In the case of food industry, as pointed by this reference, it is already well established that taste and sensory pleasure aspect of a food is important while devising nutrition intervention strategy.
Presentation of medicaments with a positive sensory attribute will certainly enhance chances of successful establishment of the formulation in the market. The look, feel, taste, aroma, after-taste and mouth-feel: all these have an overall impact on patient well being.

The chemical basis of positive sensory experience on consumption of a substance is an interesting study. For eg., this write-up (click) explores the endorphin effect of chocolate! It is evident that chocolate has 600 natural flavouring substances and pharmacologically active substances. Chocolate flavour has an unique ability to provide "feel-good" factor to a patient if used along with the medicaments.

The development of pharmaceuticals with improved sensory qualities, ie., reduced YUCK FACTOR - has been debated for long. With generic competition becoming stiffer and new product lines becoming dicier, it is imperative that existing products are strengthened to improve their sales performance. One of the ways of doing this is continuously improve the pharmaceutical formulation characteristics such as sensory attributes, disintegration profile and dissolution nature.

One cannot forget the days when we were young, and bitter tablets were powdered and administered in a tablespoon of honey for improved patient acceptance!

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