Why Medicines are Colourful ?

As a child I struggled to swallow big tablets. The rough surfaces of some tablets without any coating added to my woes. While I hated many of those tablets, there is one thing that could easy my discomfort – the colour. Probably many others could identify with me on this. A study(1) conducted in 2010 reported that colour, shape, taste and even name of a tablet have a positive association with compliance. According to that study, Indians prefer red and pink tablets over other colours! Also, they perceive that pink tablets taste sweeter than red tablets whereas a yellow tablet is perceived as salty irrespective of its actual ingredients. In my limited experience as a dispensing pharmacist, I have encountered many patients who easily recall medicines by their colours. My observation is in congruence with previous studies(2) which reported that colour can be a design lever, able to promote object memorization. Synonymous with the proverb, ‘first impression is the best impression’, colour is often the first property that anyone could experience in a tablet before its shape, taste, smell or effect. Statistics(3) claim that the majority of tablet medications are white and uncoated, but about 20% of tablets worldwide are coated with colours meant to support their particular attributes.

From the times of Ancient Egyptians up to the 20th century medicinal pills were generally rounds and white. All over the counter medications were available is pasty pastel or ghostly white hues, and prescription medicines were simple colourless pills in transparent vials.Now, pills and even liquid medicines are available in a wide array of colours, so the question that rises is whether colour has any significance. Many might think colour only makes the pills attractive to the eyes, but it has several other reasons and has become necessary now.

These Coloring agent In Pharmaceutical products are beneficial for both pharmaceutical companies as well as consumers.

  • The primary function ofcolour is that it allows customers to recognize one pill from another and also between prescription/non-prescription drugs and other capsules or tablets. Elderly patients often get confused when all pills are of the same size, colour and shape. Also, the bright coloured medicines make individuals suffering for longer duration feel happier with the addition of colours to their life, even if the colourful objects are tablets. Therefore, colour combinations and colours appeal to emotions and also significantly lower the chances of medical errors.
  • Another important fact is that patients often respond to the colour of the medication, as blue signifies deep sleep at night, while dynamic red is for speedy recovery from any ailment. Even though we do not eat pills, it is an old belief that humans eat with eyes as well as palates. This is the reason why butter has been yellow coloured ever since the 1300s. We swallow pills however; some of them leave behind their taste, which makes them difficult to swallow. Therefore, by associating it with colour, the process of associating it with a positive image becomes easier.

Other than these functional benefits for customers, colour is now being used for creating brand images instead of just simple white pills. Pharmaceutical companies are now conducting thorough research on colours and making pharmaceutical dyes accordingly as colour is now being considered a powerhouse. Colour now signifies the personality of the drug, and offers feedback not only about the how a customer might feel when consuming it, but also as a mark of the brand which is creating it. It also differentiates it from other brands therefore, displaying its benefits of belonging to a reputable brand.

Today, most consumers purchase over the counter drugs rather than prescription drugs, which is why most pharmaceutical colours manufacturers are making the drugs more and more colourful. As these colours appeal to customers and also assist in recognizing a particular brand which they trust.

In some cases the colour of the drug does not signify its effect, like Viagra, as it is blue in colour. Colour might not play a significant role in future as in case of individuals with lengthy durations of illness they might have micro-dispensers planted inside the body. Through this dispenser the quantity of drug present in one’s body will be tested and then the required quality will be released.

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