Tablets vs Capsules

Welcome to LFAs video on the difference between Capsules and Tablets and the machines that can produce them. As we are one of the world's leading suppliers of both machines we are well placed to answer this question.

Both have benefits and drawbacks so today we’re going to talk about those. As we explore the advantages and disadvantages of both options it is important to point out that these are both just alternative ways of delivering the dosage. Ultimately, the choice will come down to a balance between the API and customer preference.

Tablets are a solid dosage form created by compression of powders in a tablet press, there are several types of tablet presses from handheld, desktop or rotary tablet presses that will all produce tablets. 

Encapsulation uses 2 piece hard-shell empty capsules to enclose the excipients and API of your product. There are a range of capsule fillers from manual capsule fillers to semi-automatic and fully-automatic capsule filling machines.

In general, tableting is harder to learn as creating formulations requires a lot of learning about tablet presses, excipients, API’s and how they all react with each other. Encapsulation is considered easier to learn as the formulations are not required to bind and eject which is where a lot of issues happen during tableting. 

Tablets are widely accepted by consumers, they have been around longer than capsules making them more popular.hey can be made into different sizes, shapes, colours, embossed and can also have breaker lines so the consumer can split their dosage in half or even quadrants. Capsules do have different sizes and colours but these are fixed to 10 standard sizes. Capsules can be printed on but this puts up the cost per capsule considerably.

Tablets are cheaper to produce due to the manufacturing process. Tablet presses run faster reducing production times and costs on big batches. On top of this, the manufacturer doesn't need to buy a two-piece hard shell capsule.

Both Tablet Presses and Capsule fillers are easily accessible and can be made on a desktop or handheld machines. If however, you’re mass-producing capsules the larger capsule fillers are generally more expensive.

It should be mentioned that tableting can be costly, whilst it’s an investment, you need to consider machine wear and tear and replacing your tooling.

A tablet can be produced with controlled release of the API to provide better and more consistent absorption and offer fast, time-delayed or even extended releases.

Whilst this can be done with a capsule, there is less control as it depends on the capsule you’re using such enteric capsules which will release once it passes through the stomach, whereas a tablet formulation can be made specifically to suit a consumer’s needs.

With either tablets or capsules, the body first has to break them down before the body can absorb the dosage. Some studies will say that a capsule is broken down by the body more quickly allowing your body to absorb the dosage faster. However with many modern ingredients that are available to tableting both capsules and tablets can be broken down by the body at similar rates.

Compared to tableting, capsuling can be slow to produce, one of the fastest capsuling machines can produce around 210,000 per hour whilst there are tablet presses which can produce around 1,000,000+ tablets per hour and generally have a lower unit cost.

A huge benefit to capsules is they are easy to swallow due to them being made from soft gelatin or vegetable extracts, which many people with dysphagia, fear of swallowing pills, would consider. Whilst tablets can be made chewable which are accepted by a larger demographic.

Capsules can easily be made organic, by using an organic capsule and then filling them with your organic ingredient. However, it’s almost impossible to do this with tablets due to having to use excipients for flow and binding which generally aren’t organic. LFA does have an organic tableting binder but it doesn’t work with a wider range of ingredients as standard binders.

Both capsules and tablets can have a unique combination of ingredients allowing you to tailor them specifically to your consumer’s needs.

Capsules are known for hiding the bad taste and smell that some formulations may produce. Tablets can also do this but will need to go through a coating process, this can be done at a reasonable cost whereas capsules will do this from just enclosing the formulation.

Whilst a tablet can contain a higher dosage of your active ingredient compared to a capsule, they are known to be more likely to cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract when compared to capsules.

A question that often comes up is “Tablets have “filler” ingredients, so capsules are better?“

When tableting, each ingredient or excipient in a tablet will suit its purpose. A lubricant helps your tablet mix move through the machine, a binder helps keep your tablet from crumbling producing a strong tablet whilst others absorb moisture. 

You’ll also find some of these ingredients in capsules as the powder still has to move through the capsule filling machine smoothly.

Capsules tend to have a shorter shelf life compared to tablets whilst the capsules themselves are sensitive to both heat and moisture meaning they have to be stored in a specific way to ensure they don’t deteriorate.

Both options have their advantages and disadvantages and it’s an important decision when it comes to your product so be sure to take your time and research further pros and cons.

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