Tablets Vs. Capsules: Why Do Medications Come in Different Forms?

There are many options when it comes to choosing a form for your medication. If you are purchasing over the counter medications, there may be so many options it is difficult to choose. When considering options at the drug store you may see options for tablets, capsules, soft gels, “slow release,” “fast-acting,” chewable, and many more. 


On the other hand, if your doctor needs to write a prescription and asks if you prefer tablets or capsules, it is also important to understand your choices. To decide on which form you prefer, consider the following facts about tablets versus capsules:



Tablets are very common, and are made by taking the powdered medication ingredients and compressing them into a firm, coated pill. During the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, additives are generally added to tablets to make them more palatable.


Tablets can be several shapes, some of which make swallowing easier. There can also be different types of coating on the tablets that control when the medication is released into the body during the digestive process. Tablets sometimes come in chewable form.


Ultimately, no matter the shape, coating, or method of taking the tablet (swallowing versus chewing), the medication is released into the digestive system, absorbed by the blood, and taken to the part of the body that the ingredients target.



Capsules release medication in a similar way to tablets: once the medication is released into the digestive system, it travels via the bloodstream to where it is needed. The main difference between capsules and tablets is how they are made and the final pill form.


Capsules are actually medication inside of an outer shell. The outer shell can be hard or soft (you may see some capsules advertised as “soft gel”). Hard shell capsules can be filled with medication in the form of a powder or pellets, or it can contain liquid medication. Soft gels contain medication that is floating in a gelatin substance, or another similar substance.


Why the Different Forms of Medication

As you can see, there are important similarities when it comes to tablets and capsules, but there are also key differences that highlight the need for creating medication in different forms.


For example, due to how tablets are made as well as the ingredients used, tablets are generally more affordable for consumers and also have a longer shelf life. A single tablet can also contain higher doses of medication versus a single capsule.


And again, due to the manufacturing process and ingredients, tablets can come in many convenient forms that you may be specifically seeking, including chewable, “quick release,” “delayed release,” and more.


In contrast, the manufacturing process and makeup of capsules offer you faster acting medication, providing quicker relief from whatever symptoms you are experiencing. Capsules also allow more of the medication to be absorbed into the bloodstream and are generally tasteless and odorless.


As you can see, there are many options when it comes to the forms of medication you can take. Whether you need your medication to be chewable, tasteless, fast-acting, delayed release, or soft gel, there is an option for you.

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