It may seem a bit strange to think about, but our perception of things often changes our interactions with them, even if our perception does not align with reality. Studies out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as well as the University of Bombay both found varying but substantial evidence that the appearance of a pill plays a significant role in our pill-taking habits and alter our feelings to the point of breaking those habits.

It’s a troubling revelation for many physicians, as some patients rely on a strict regimen of medication in order to recover from major surgeries, heart attacks, and other life-threatening conditions. While a few breaks in the cycle may not be heavily detrimental, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that a change in the color of a pill caused 34% of patients to stop taking the pill all together, while 66% stopped taking it after a change in shape. Keep in mind, the ingredients of the pill were identical, but the change in appearance was jarring enough for patients to prevent them from taking medications. 

The results of the study have many wondering why the pills even change in the first place, and the answer is simple: manufacturers produce different styles of pills and pharmaceutical employees do not discriminate between pill styles in their work flow. Consistency in pill shape and color just isn’t conducive to the industry’s standards, and often, branded and generic medications look different in spite of their ingredients being the same.

While changes in pill shape and color may affect one’s habits in taking the pill, the initial color and shape of the pill can affect one’s attitude toward it. In a study out of the University of Bombay, researchers found that the color and shape of the pill acted as “a memory tag” and led to associations that were not actually present in the pills themselves. For instance, 14% of test subjects reported that pink pills were sweet and yellow pills were salty. Another 11% reported white or blue pills as tasting bitter and orange pills as sour. The interesting part is that, in actuality, the pills had consistent ingredients, suggesting these perceptions are imagined based on associations with those specific colors. 

At the end of the day, there isn’t much to be done about pill consistency as a consumer. Even the same brand of medication can change the game when you least expect it, so the only immediate solution is to stay aware of your own feelings toward your pill and always ensure you have reminders in place to keep your pill-taking habits on track.

With that said, pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to provide consistency for their consumers as long as their manufacturer can support that consistency. If you are a pharmaceutical company looking to build consistency in your product, contact one of our professionals at Peak Nutritional Products to learn how we can help!