The color of the prescription pill should not matterBy Dr. Veita Bland / November 23, 2016
One of the first questions your doctor should ask when you visit is, “Are you taking your medication? This is a simple question but the answer determines what happens next.
If you are taking medications every day as prescribed and improvement in your health has not been obtained, an adjustment must be made.
If medication was not taken daily, or not at all, why? Did the medication cause adverse side effects? Was acquisition of the medication not possible with your insurance? Was a faulty memory the problem? Or is the patient denying he/she has a medical problem? Whatever it may be, a reassessment of the medication is in order and a different approach is needed.
With an increase in the usage of generic medications, many patients become concerned when the color, shape or size of their medications change as the“original” medication is substituted for a generic. Drug companies put a lot of effort into the identity of their pills. Who does not know what the “little blue pill” is? That identity is infused with associated effectiveness of the drug. With that type of advertising power, it is not too farfetched to wonder if the color of a pill had any perceived effectiveness? Would that color affect patient adherence in taking medication?
During the 2016 Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, Dr. Tricia Ting an associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine spoke about her new study that looked at the influence the color of a pill had in whether patients took their medication properly.
In the world of pills there are five colors used worldwide: White, yellow, gray, caramel and maroon. The study looked to see what colors were preferred by different groups of people. It was noted that as people aged there was less of a preference for grey colored pills. Maroon was a pill color that was not looked upon favorably by African Americans.
Pill color was often associated with the patient’s perceived effect of the pill. In the U.S., cooler colored pills have been associated with relaxing or depressive effects. While hotter colored pills such as red, have been associated with a stimulant effect. In actuality, the color has no barring on the effectiveness of the pill.
So how do these thoughts affect generic drugs? When a generic formulation of a tried and true seizure medication came out, the color and shape of the pill was changed. This resulted in a drop in the compliance of people in taking this medication. This also resulted in people experiencing more seizures because they rejected the new look of an old medication.
Pharmaceutical companies pay a lot of attention when deciding which color and shape a new pill will have. Here they are protecting their investments and fostering brand loyalty to ward off any generics in the future. On the flip side, picking the wrong color or shape for a promising drug may in fact doom it.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.