A Comprehensive Guide to Tablets: Types, Uses, and Benefits

A Comprehensive Guide to Tablets: Types, Uses, and Benefits

Tablets have emerged as highly versatile devices in the digital world. These compact yet powerful gadgets come in various forms, each designed to cater to specific user needs. From convertible tablets that double as laptops, they provide the convenience of a keyboard and the functionality of an entire operating system to slates, the most common form of tablet with a touchscreen interface and a myriad of applications at your fingertips. Then there are rugged tablets, crafted for industrial use and capable of withstanding harsh environments, and gaming tablets, optimized for a high-end, immersive gaming experience. Understanding these different types, their services, and the benefits they offer is crucial in making an informed purchase. Let’s delve deeper into the world of tablets.

What Are Tablets and Capsules?

What Are Tablets and Capsules?

Definition of tablets and capsules

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Difference between tablets and capsules

Difference between tablets and capsules

It appears there’s been confusion between two distinct topics: tablets in the context of digital devices and tablets versus capsules in pharmaceutical terms. Here, we will clarify the differences between pharmaceutical tablets and capsules.

  1. Physical Structure: Tablets are typically a compressed powder in a solid form, while capsules are medicine enclosed in a dissolvable gelatin shell.
  2. Taste: Tablets may have an unpleasant taste, while capsules are tasteless because the drug is enclosed in a shell.
  3. Ease of Swallowing: Capsules are generally easier to swallow compared to tablets.
  4. Rate of Absorption: Capsules tend to dissolve quickly in the stomach, allowing for faster absorption of the medication.
  5. Formulation: Tablets offer a wide range of formulation options and can be designed to release the medication over time. Capsules, however, cannot accommodate such complex formulations.
  6. Cost: Manufacturing tablets is usually less expensive than producing capsules, making tablets a more cost-effective option.

Typical uses of tablets and capsules

Tablets and capsules are used in a wide range of medical therapies due to their convenience, accurate dosage, and patient compliance. Tablets are commonly used in the treatment of chronic illnesses that require precise dosages, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. They provide a stable and solid platform for incorporating slow-release formulations, which are beneficial for maintaining therapeutic levels of medication over extended periods.

Capsules, on the other hand, are often used for medications that need to be absorbed quickly into the body. They are an ideal choice for drugs that have an unpleasant taste or odor, as the gelatin shell can mask these attributes effectively. Additionally, capsules are preferred for delivering oil-based medications and dietary supplements like fish oil and vitamin E, which are not suitable for tablet formulation.

How tablets and capsules are formulated

How tablets and capsules are formulated

The formulation processes for tablets and capsules differ significantly, each requiring a unique set of ingredients and manufacturing steps.

Tablet Formulation: The process starts with granulation, a procedure that combines and agglomerates the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) with various excipients to improve flow and compressibility and enhance drug release. After granulation, the mixture is compressed under high pressure into tablets using a tablet press. The tablets then undergo a coating process to improve their appearance, mask unpleasant tastes and sometimes control the release of the API.

Capsule Formulation: Capsules are typically filled with either powders, pellets, or liquids. For powder and pellet-filled capsules, APIs are mixed with suitable excipients to ensure uniformity of dosage. The mixture is then filled into capsule shells made of gelatin or a suitable vegan substitute. Liquid-filled capsules involve a more complex process where the API is dissolved or suspended in a liquid carrier and then filled into the capsule shell. The tablets are then sealed to prevent leakage.

Both these formulation techniques are essential in the production of safe, effective, and stable pharmaceutical products. They allow for precise dosage control, improved patient compliance, and the possibility of modifying drug release, making tablets and capsules a preferred choice for medication delivery.

Advantages of tablets and capsules

Advantages of tablets and capsules

  1. Precision in Dosage: Both tablets and capsules offer a precise quantity of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), ensuring patients receive the exact dosage required.
  2. Enhanced Stability: The enclosed nature of tablets and capsules provides better protection for the API against environmental factors such as air, light, and humidity, thus increasing stability.
  3. Controlled Drug Release: Certain tablet and capsule formulations allow for prevented or delayed release of the API, improving therapeutic effectiveness and reducing side effects.
  4. Ease of Administration: Tablets and capsules are easy to administer, require no preparation before use, and are conveniently portable.
  5. Improved Patient Compliance: The smooth coating of tablets and capsules, along with the ability to mask unpleasant tastes and odors, makes them more palatable, increasing patient compliance.
  6. Cost-Effective Production: Tablets and capsules are cost-effective to produce at a large scale, contributing to their widespread use in the pharmaceutical industry.
  7. Flexibility in Formulation: Tablets and capsules offer flexibility in formulation, allowing incorporation of various types of APIs – be they solid, liquid, or even semi-solid.

How Do Tablets and Capsules Work?

How Do Tablets and Capsules Work?

Swallowing Tablets and Capsules

Swallowing tablets and capsules begins when they are ingested orally. Salivary glands in the mouth moisten the medication, making it easier to swallow.

Dissolution in the Stomach

Once swallowed, the tablets and capsules travel down the esophagus and into the stomach. Here, they come into contact with gastric acid, which begins to dissolve the outer coating of the medication.

Route of Drug Delivery

The partially dissolved tablet or capsule then moves from the stomach into the small intestine. It is here that the majority of drug delivery occurs. The small intestine’s large surface area and high permeability make it an ideal site for absorption into the bloodstream.

Absorption in the Small Intestine

Absorption happens when the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) are passed from the intestinal lumen into the systemic circulation. This process relies heavily on the drug’s solubility and the permeability of the intestinal mucosa.

Disintegration and Release of Active Ingredients

Disintegration refers to the process where the capsule or tablet breaks down into smaller particles. This is crucial as it increases the surface area available for dissolution. Once disintegrated, the APIs are then released and can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

In conclusion, understanding the journey of a tablet or capsule through the body helps highlight the importance of design and formulation in medication. These factors can significantly influence the effectiveness of the drug and the patient’s overall health outcome.

Types of Tablets and Capsules

Types of Tablets and Capsules

There are several types of tablets and capsules, each formulated for a specific purpose and mode of drug delivery.

  1. Compressed Tablets: These are the most common type of tablets, created by compressing the drug with fillers and excipients. They are cheap to manufacture, easy to store, and convenient for patients to take.
  2. Enteric-coated Tablets: These are tablets coated with a material that prevents dissolution in the stomach’s acidic environment. The coating ensures that the drug is only released in the intestine, where pH levels are more suitable.
  3. Orally Disintegrating Tablets (ODTs): These are designed to dissolve quickly in the mouth without the need for water. They’re beneficial for patients who have difficulty swallowing.
  4. Effervescent Tablets: These tablets create a solution when in contact with water, resulting in a fizzy drink. The effervescence aids in the quick dissolution of the medication.
  5. Multiple Unit Pellet System (MUPS) Tablets: This type of tablet contains several small drug-filled pellets. Each pellet is designed to deliver the drug at different release rates or at various locations in the digestive tract.

Understanding these different types of tablets and capsules can aid pharmaceutical professionals in developing the most effective medication for specific patient needs.

Advantages of Tablets and Capsules

Advantages of Tablets and Capsules

  1. More accessible to Swallow: Tablets and capsules are generally easier to swallow compared to other dosage forms, making them a preferred choice for many patients.
  2. Increased Stability of Drug: The solid form of tablets and capsules provides increased stability for the drug, extending its shelf life and maintaining the viability of the active ingredient.
  3. Improved Bioavailability: Certain types of tablets and capsules, like enteric-coated tablets and MUPS tablets, can enhance the bioavailability of the drug, ensuring that a higher proportion of the active ingredient is absorbed into the body.
  4. Convenience and Portability: Tablets and capsules are convenient to carry and require no special storage conditions, making them an ideal choice for patients who are traveling or need to take their medication on the go.
  5. Reduced Risk of Contamination: The production process of tablets and capsules is designed to reduce the risk of contamination, making them a safer option for patients. The encapsulation or coating of the active ingredient further prevents direct contact, reducing the risk of contamination even further.

Understanding these advantages is crucial for pharmaceutical professionals in determining the best drug delivery method for each patient’s needs.

How to Use Tablets and Capsules

How to Use Tablets and Capsules

Proper Dosage and Frequency

Always adhere to the recommended dosage and frequency prescribed by your healthcare provider. Overdosing or under-dosing can lead to ineffective treatment or potential side effects.

Swallowing Techniques

To swallow tablets or capsules, place them at the back of your tongue and take a large sip of water. Tilt your head forward as you eat, as this action naturally opens up your throat, making swallowing easier.

Splitting Tablets

Not all tablets are intended to be split. Some have a special coating that can be disrupted by dividing. Always consult with a pharmacist or healthcare provider before breaking a tablet.

Administration of Tablets to Children

Administering tablets to children can be challenging. Use a pill crusher to crush the tablet and mix it with a small amount of soft food or liquid unless advised otherwise by a healthcare provider. Always confirm the child has consumed all of the food or drink to ensure total dosage.

Tablets and Capsules with Food or Liquid

Some medications need to be taken with food to avoid stomach upset, while others should be taken on an empty stomach for better absorption. Always refer to the medication’s instructions or consult with a healthcare provider for best practices.


  1. American Pharmacists Association. (2019). Pharmacy Today. https://www.pharmacytoday.org/article/S1042-0991(19)30247-2/abstract
  2. National Institute of Health. (2020). Safe Use of Medicines for Older Adults. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/safe-use-medicines-older-adults
  3. Royal Pharmaceutical Society. (2018). Best Practice Guidance for Tablet Crushing. https://www.rpharms.com/recognition/all-our-amsr/crushing-tablets
  4. World Health Organization. (2015). Guidelines for the regulatory assessment of Medicinal Products for use in self-medication. https://www.who.int/medicines/areas/quality_safety/quality_assurance/GuidelinesForRegulatoryAssessmentOfMedProductsForUseSelfMedicationMay2017.pdf
  5. Zaid, A. N., Al-Ramahi, R., & Ghosh, A. A. (2018). Tablet splitting: a common yet not so innocent practice. Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research, 9(1), 2–6. https://doi.org/10.4103/japtr.JAPTR_305_17

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is a tablet?

A: A tablet is a type of dosage form commonly used for oral administration. It is a solid dosage form that contains the active ingredient(s) along with other excipients to form a solid, compressed unit.

Q: How is a tablet different from a capsule?

A: A tablet and a capsule are both solid dosage forms, but they have some differences. A tablet is a reliable, compressed unit, while a pill is a gelatinous container that encloses the active ingredient(s) within it.

Q: What is the purpose of formulation in tablets?

A: Formulation in tablets refers to the process of selecting and combining various ingredients, including the active ingredient(s) and excipients, to create the final tablet product. The formulation determines the characteristics, release profile, and stability of the tablet.

Q: What are some common types of tablets?

A: There are several types of tablets, such as immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, chewable tablets, effervescent tablets, and sublingual tablets. Each class has specific characteristics and uses.

Q: What are the benefits of tablets as a dosage form?

A: Tablets offer numerous benefits as a dosage form. They are convenient to take, portable, and easier to swallow compared to other solid dosage forms. They can also be formulated to release the active ingredient(s) at specific rates, allowing for controlled drug delivery.

Q: What is the role of tablets in oral medication?

A: Tablets are commonly used for oral medication. They are designed to be swallowed and pass through the digestive system, where the active ingredient(s) are absorbed into the bloodstream. Tablets in oral medication are available in various formulations and strengths, depending on the specific drug product.

Q: Can tablets be split or crushed?

A: Not all tablets can be split or crushed. Some pills have special coatings or formulations that should not be altered. It is essential to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professional or medication packaging to determine if splitting or crushing is safe for a specific tablet.

Q: What are enteric-coated tablets?

A: Enteric-coated tablets are tablets that have a special coating designed to resist disintegration in the stomach. This coating allows the tablet to pass through the stomach and dissolve in the intestines, protecting the active ingredient(s) from the acidic environment of the stomach.

Q: What are the advantages of enteric-coated tablets?

A: Enteric-coated tablets have several advantages. They can help protect sensitive active ingredient(s) from degradation in the acidic environment of the stomach. Additionally, they can reduce the likelihood of stomach irritation or side effects commonly associated with certain drugs.

Q: Are there any soluble tablet options available?

A: Yes, there are soluble tablet options available. Soluble tablets are designed to dissolve easily in water or other liquids. They are commonly used when immediate dissolution of the active ingredient(s) is desired.

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