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Yucky Medicines

August 28, 2013

Scientists are trying to learn how to make bitter medicines taste better, especially to kids.



De-yuckifying medicines. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

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The fact that strong medicines taste bad isn’t just a nuisance. It’s a real barrier to treating illness, especially in young children, who are extra-sensitive to bitter tastes and can’t swallow capsules. Biopsychologist Julie Menella, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, is on a task force called the Pediatric Formulation Initiative. Essentially, they’re studying how to make medicines less yucky to kids. For example, they’re looking more closely at ingredients used to counteract bitter tastes, and how people with different genes perceive them.

JULIE MENELLA (Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia):

For example, sodium is a good blocker, glutamate, sucrose, and we’re looking at the efficacy of those blockers in children and adults and does the efficacy differ by the genotype of the individual.

She says that as medicine gets more personalized, it may be possible to custom-tailor medicines to a patient’s taste genes. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.