Flavored Spray Could Help Kids to Swallow Pills

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A sweet flavored spray might make medicine go down a bit easier for children.

For many kids, it’s near impossible to swallow large and sometimes coarse pills. Their inability to swallow pills can potentially stop them from taking life-saving medicine.

According to a trial published in the journal Pediatrics, one spray not only made the process of taking pills easier for kids, but in some cases it even made it enjoyable.

Pill Glide, manufactured by FlavorX, comes in a variety of flavors such as strawberry and bubblegum. It’s sprayed in the mouth to lubricate prior to swallowing a pill.

“There was a significant decrease in the difficulty of taking medicine with these sprays,” said Dr. Catherine Tuleu, a pharmaceuticals researcher at University College London, who conducted the research with colleagues at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK. “The kids liked to be in charge and to change the flavor.”

Tuleu and her team used the spray with 25 children between the ages of six and 17. All of the children in the trial were in long-term therapies for serious conditions such as HIV or organ transplants. They were also known to have difficulty swallowing pills and were in the process of transitioning from liquid medicine to solids. In some cases, there was no liquid alternative to the medicine they had to take, so learning how to swallow a pill was urgent.

Each child was asked to keep a journal for two weeks, rating the difficulty of taking their daily pills using Pill Glide from a scale of one to six. Out of the 25 children asked to rate their experience, 10 participants successfully kept up with their journal for the two week period. The researchers found that the difficulty of swallowing a pill went down by almost one full level on the scale the team used for each of those 10 children.

“It really helps the kids take their medication,” Tuleu said. “It could be a long-term gain, even in adult behavior.”

Pill Glide could potentially alleviate another large-scale problem. Liquid medicine and chewable tablets are the traditional alternative to pills for children, but they can be more expensive and more difficult to handle and store. Learning to swallow pills at a younger age could be a much more cost-effective option.

Although these new findings were positive, the trial was quite small by scientific standards, and more widespread testing is recommended.

“It’s a very small trial, and they worked with children from a specialized clinic,” Dr. Robert Scott-Jupp, a consultant pediatrician at Salisbury District Hospital in the UK, told CNN. “How this will be generalized to other areas, I don’t know.”

Danielle Tarasiuk

Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.