In pharmacology, capsules are hollow containers that hold liquid or powder forms of medication for oral use. Capsules can be manufactured as soft gel capsules that contain liquids or as hard capsules that frequently contain powder forms of medications. Both types of capsules are typically made from gelatin, although some manufacturers design non-gelatin forms for vegetarians. The types of capsules differ in their advantages and disadvantages.
Capsules were first patented for use in 1830 by Joseph Gerard Auguste Dublanc and Francois Achille Barnabe Mothes, according to Capsugel. The first patented capsules were made from soft gelatin. In 1846 Jules Lehuby obtained a patent for two-piece hard capsules, such as those that are in use today. Since these capsules were made by hand, there was difficulty obtaining precision to get the two parts to fit together well. In 1931, Arthur Colton invented a machine to make both parts of hard capsules, so they fit together properly. The machines that make hard capsules today are based on Colton's invention.
Hard capsules and liquid gel caps are both ways to encapsulate a medication to make administration easier. A capsule is easier to swallow and has less taste than swallowing a liquid medication. Inserting powdered medication into a capsule provides an easy way for a patient to obtain the medication. Since hard and soft capsules are made from gelatin, they easily dissolve during digestion to release the medicine inside.
Hard capsules are made from a dried, hardened gelatin. Soft capsules or liquid gel caps are formed from a liquid gelatin that is later hardened in a humid environment. Soft gel capsules are one continuous piece of gelatin, while hard capsules are made from two pieces that are fitted together once they have been filled with medication.
Soft, liquid gel caps are well-suited for liquid medications and oil-based supplements. During the manufacturing process, additives can be combined with the liquid medications to make them taste better or to improve absorption in the body. Powder medications can be used in a sot gel if they are mixed with liquid or combined into a paste. Hard capsules are often filled with powdered medication. Additives can be added to the powdered medication to make the medicine time-releasing or longer lasting. In both types of capsules, medications can be combined, so more than one medication can be consumed with one pill.
Hard capsules are less resistant to tampering than a soft liquid gel capsule, since hard capsules are designed in two pieces that can be taken apart. Liquid gel capsules are difficult to tamper with as they are one continuous piece of gelatin.
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