Can Color Affect How We Take Our Medicine?

They say you should never judge a book by its cover…but what about medications? Does a pill’s color and appearance make it more or less likely for people to take it? Actually yes! It does! In a study conducted in 2014, it was determined that pill shape and pill color influenced how people believed the pills worked. It also influenced how easy participants felt the pills were to take.

This research began after an alarming survey found that when switched to different kinds of generic pills patients were more likely to stop taking their medication. To figure out why a few studies in both China and the U.S. were conducted. Participants were shown different pictures of pills in all different shapes and colors and were then asked to rate the pill’s anticipated bitterness, ease of swallowing, and effectiveness on mental alertness and headache pain.

The results in the shape category were pretty straight forward; most people rated the same diamond shaped pill being the most difficult pill to swallow. But when participants were asked which pill colors influenced them their answers were very surprising.

U.S. participants reported that the light blue pills would probably be the least bitter tasting and the majority felt that pills that were red and light red were probably the most mentally stimulating. When asked to rate which color pills would be the best for treating headaches, they rated white pills the highest and green pills the lowest.

An international follow-up study between the U.S., China and Colombia yielded additional insight into how color affects pill popping habits. White pills were once again rated the highest for treating headaches, but in specifically the Chinese respondents both red and blue pills were thought to be harder to swallow than all the other colors.

The pharmaceutical industry relies on this kind of data for one crucial reason, patient compliance. Medicine is already something that many patients struggle with taking, if the appearance of pills or their shape is not appealing or easy to ingest, people will be less likely to follow their drug regimen. As a result the ability to ensure consistency in drug color is becoming essential for maintaining or increasing patient compliance with drug therapy. Color measurement tools like Konica’s CM-5 Spectrophotometer offers precise, consistent color measurement solutions each and every time.

1. “The Color of Medications.” Color Matters. Web.

2. “A Spectrum of Problems with Using Color.” ISMP Medication Safety Alert. 1 Nov. 2003. Web.

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