Interactive resources for schools

Select an age range to seek interactive content for...

Excipients

Other substances that are added to the drug when making a tablet, capsule, cream, ointment etc.

SPC

Summary of Product Characteristics

The challenge

Targets:

  • To produce a significant number of boxes to be used as packaging for a new medicine.
  • To carry out a production run in a fixed time period and achieve a target set by the team.
  • The team with the most points and bonus points will win the contract.

Aim:

  • To learn more about medicines and how they work through thinking about the label and packaging for a new medicine.

You will work in teams to produce labels and boxes for your medicine. You will have to work to deadlines on multiple tasks accurately and efficiently to achieve success.

Tasks:

These tasks should be teacher-led and will involve working in teams.

What dose to give?

You have to make sure that the patient takes the right dose at the right times. If you take too much or take the medicine too often you might get side effects. If you don't take enough the drug may not work.

Ideally a medicine should be taken once or twice a day. More often than that and some patients forget to take it at the right time.

Designing and making packaging for a medicine

The labels for a medicine bottle and the box it is in provide the patient with all the information they need to take the medicine so that it will be safe and effective.

Producing medicine boxes

Producing and packaging a medicine needs to be carefully planned

What's in a medicine?

If you look at boxes of medicines you are unlikely to find a complete list of ingredients as you would for a food product. The label of a medicine box will tell you what the active ingredient (the "drug") is but not all of the inactive components which are present. In a tablet for example, these other components are there for a number of good reasons including:

  • Giving it bulk because many drugs are so potent (very strong) that you sometimes only need one crystal or less, which would be a bit difficult to take
  • To add colour to help identify one medicine from another
  • As a type of "glue" to hold the components together after they are compressed into a tablet
  • To help break the tablet up if you take it in water

These extra ingredients are sometimes referred to as excipients. Information on the active ingredients and excipients in a medicine can be found on the Electronic Medicines Compendium. Using information on this site and other web sites, try and work out which is the active ingredient is for some medicines you might have taken, or have heard of. Search by the name of the medicine in the 'Medicines A-Z' section. You can find out what is in the medicine by clicking on the medicine name next to 'SPC'. The other ingredients (excipients) are listed in section 6 of the SPC. Try to find out what these other ingredients do, and why they have been added.