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Enteric Coating

An enteric coating is a polymer barrier applied on oral medication that prevents its dissolution or disintegration in the gastric environment. This helps by either protecting drugs from the acidity of the stomach, the stomach from the detrimental effects of the drug, or to release the drug after the stomach (usually in the upper tract of the intestine).

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Enteric coating refers to a specialized coating applied to oral medication tablets or capsules to protect them from the acidic environment of the stomach. This coating is designed to remain intact in the stomach and dissolve in the alkaline environment of the small intestine.

Purpose of enteric coatings

Enteric coating serves several purposes:

Protection from Gastric Acid

Some medications are sensitive to the acidic environment of the stomach, which can degrade or inactivate them before they reach the intended site of absorption. Enteric coating provides a barrier that prevents the medication from coming into contact with gastric acid, thereby protecting its integrity.

Delayed Release

Enteric-coated medications are often formulated for delayed release, meaning they are designed to release their active ingredients gradually over time or at specific locations in the gastrointestinal tract. This controlled release profile can help optimize the therapeutic effects of the medication and minimize side effects.

Minimization of Gastric Irritation

Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin, can irritate the stomach lining and cause gastrointestinal side effects such as ulcers or gastritis. Enteric coating can help reduce the risk of gastric irritation by preventing direct contact between the medication and the stomach mucosa.

Targeted Delivery

Enteric coating allows for targeted delivery of medications to specific regions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the small intestine. This can be beneficial for drugs that are absorbed more efficiently in the intestine or for treating conditions localized to that area.

Improved Patient Compliance

Enteric-coated medications may have a more favorable tolerability profile compared to uncoated formulations, leading to better patient adherence to treatment regimens.

Medications with enteric coating

Common examples of medications that utilize enteric coating include:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat acid-related disorders like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers.
  • Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce the risk of gastric irritation and ulcers.
  • Some oral antibiotics to protect them from stomach acid and enhance their absorption in the intestine.
  • Some vitamin and mineral supplements to prevent gastric irritation or improve absorption.

What are enteric coatings made of?

Enteric coating is typically composed of polymers that are resistant to acidic pH but dissolve in alkaline pH. Examples of enteric coating materials include cellulose acetate phthalate (CAP), hydroxypropyl methylcellulose phthalate (HPMCP), and methacrylic acid copolymers.

Proper use of medications with enteric coatings

It’s important for patients to follow instructions provided by healthcare professionals regarding enteric-coated medications, such as taking them with water and avoiding crushing or chewing them to ensure proper drug release and efficacy.

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