Enteric-Coated Medication

Pills on countertop
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When deciding on a drug, it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits. Commonly used back pain medications such as NSAIDs have known side effects that can result in serious stomach problems. Enteric-coated medication may potentially help avoid this problem.

The Problem With Taking NSAIDs

The American College of Gastroenterology says the use of NSAIDs for pain relief, musculoskeletal disorders, and arthritis, while valuable, has been limited based on an association this class of medication has with ulcers and other upper GI tract injuries. Along with these gastrointestinal problems, the organization says, complications including hemorrhage and perforation often occur. 

Authors of a 2012 study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease report that ulcers have been demonstrated in 15%-30% of regular NSAID users.

How Enteric-Coating Medication Prevents Side Effects of NSAIDs

One way the pharmaceutical industry addresses this potential complication is by coating the pills. Enteric-coated pain medication is surrounded by special ingredients that are said to prevent irritation of the stomach lining and usually come in tablet or capsule form.

Enteric-coated drugs do their work by keeping the drug's active ingredient from releasing until it has gone all the way through the stomach and arrives in the small intestine. The word enteric means "relating to the intestine."

Cutting, crushing, or breaking an enteric-coated medication before taking it negates its protective effect and exposes the stomach to potential irritation. Crushing or breaking an enteric-coated medication may lead to serious side effects, may prevent the medication from working properly, and may slow down your recovery rate. Always read the patient information leaflet or check with your pharmacist to see if it is safe to crush your tablets or open your capsules. If your needs have changed and you are finding it difficult to swallow tablets or capsules, then contact your physician, who will prescribe your medication in another form that is easier for you to take.

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  1. American College of Gastroenterology. Peptic Ulcer Disease.

  2. Bello AE. DUEXIS(®) (ibuprofen 800 mg, famotidine 26.6 mg): a new approach to gastroprotection for patients with chronic pain and inflammation who require treatment with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2012;4(5):327-39. doi:10.1177/1759720X12444710

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