Cotton in Medicine Bottles

Anyone know why drug and supplement manufacturers put cotton in bottles?
I’ve got a hunch that it’s completely unnecessary, but found slim pickings when I Googled the key words.

I’d guess it’s to stop the pills from rattling about in transit, and getting all broken up.

Here’s a related question: I though I had read someplace that there’s some illness you can get by inhaling particles from the cotton wadding. Am I just making this up?

I always thought that it was to keep the pills from getting broken up combined with a small measure of childproofing. I always thought that pill padding was the major reason.

Probably true. My brother used to work in a place where he had to clean out the vats where the pills were made. He said guys got sick a lot doing that. Breathing all the dust and all.

Danger in the Dust

It’s the Endotoxins that do it:
Longitudinal changes in inflammatory markers in nasal lavage of cotton workers. Relation to endotoxin exposure and lung function changes.

Back to the OP: I once worked at a drug manufacturer. I asked the same question about the cotton.

The response I got was that it kept the pills from rattling around in transit. Sure, they might break, but the real concern was that they would bang into each other, eroding themselves, and eventually becoming smaller than they were supposed to be. Thus, you wouldn’t be getting the full benefit of a full-sized pill.

So the cotton is there to fill in the container’s empty space and keep the pills from rattling around too much as they make their way from factory to pharmacy to you. Once you get them home, you can throw away the cotton if you like.

“To prevent rattling around” was my surmise, too, but:

1.) Why don’t other pills do this? I can’t recall seeing cotton in any other pill bottle.

2.) Why do they make it so damned hard to get out?
3.) Just want to quote a line from Woody Allen’s “Play it Again, Sam”: “I’m becoming an aspirin junkie. Pretty soon I’ll be boiling the cotton for the extra.”

I can’t say for sure, but I can make a few educated guesses as to why cotton may not be used:

– The pills have a hard coating (like M&Ms) that prevents eroding.

– The pills are gelatin capsules. The two halves of the shell prevent eroding.

– The pills were packed tightly enough that rattling was minimized.

– The pills were repackaged. The place I worked would sell in bulk–not just in jars of, say, 500 pills to be shipped to a pharmacy, but also in greater lots to be shipped to Big Chain Drugstore, which would repackage them as a house brand (say for ibuprofen). Maybe the repackager chooses not to use cotton, or maybe packs them tightly enough.

Or, cotton is used because the pills contain very little active ingredient. Amounts like 5 milligrams (a common dosage of diazepam) are nearly microscopic. That 5 mg diazepam tablet that you take is mostly inert ingredients, but it’s big enough for you to handle. Anyway, with so little active ingredient, you don’t want to take the chance of losing any of the active ingredient through erosion.

Compare this to, say, the 600 to 1000 mg of ASA commonly found in headache remedies. Lose a milligram or two, it won’t really matter. Lose a little diazepam though, and you’re not getting what your doctor prescribed.

Note that I’m using diazepam as an example only. I honestly cannot remember whether the diazepam tablets from the manufacturer I worked for were coated or not, or how they were packaged. But its common enough (you might know it better as Valium), and at 5 mg it certainly is a small dosage, so it works well in my example.

Spoons – good reasons all, but it misses my point – why don’t other pills generally get cottoned? The same reasons that apply to aspirin ought to apply to them as well. And aspirin doesn’t have a tiny amount of active ingredient – you can lose quite a bit off the aspirin and it will still be effective. And some aspirin has a protective coatring, too (they touted this at Bayer a coupla years ago). Yet aspirin, which doesn’t real;ly need it, is the only pill I’ve seen with the cotton packing while others, which arguably could use it, don’t.

I think it’s that confirmation bias rearing it’s head again. Certainly my multitude of vitamin and herbal supplements come with cotton, or sometimes a crunched up flexible plastic sheeting. My ibuprofen caplets do not, but they have that hard coating and no edges. My Tylenol gelcaps do not, but they have that gelcoat, and lack brittle edges to crumble off.

Some of my capsules (echinacea caps) also come with, but it’s a shitty brand (I got for free - 8 of 'em to a dose. Utter crap. But they were free!) and I suspect that the cotton is used more as an excuse to use a larger bottle than they really need to. It looks like a better deal to a buyer.

Dunno – I realize that my prejudices are active even when I’m not aware of it, but I’m hard-pressed to think of other pills I’ve got that come with cotton packed in them (and I’m not considering prescription drugs, of course). But aspirin still comes that way.

Other than what? What are you talking about? Virtually all medicines that come in bottles have cotton in them in my experience, and same goes for things like vitamin pills.

All I can say is that you folks have experiences very different from mine.

Cal, I honestly don’t know the answer to that one. Best I can offer is “company policy,” but I have no grounds on which to base that.

I don’t even know what particular pill you’re talking about, since you decided not to answer my “What are you talking about?” question. Look at your first post in this thread. Think about better ways to ask questions.

Every tablet I dispense in my veterinary practice has cotton packed over the pills. They are primarily bottles of 250, 500, or 1000 tablets. We keep a pair of hemostats hanging in the pharmacy area specifically for pulling out the cotton.

Years ago I did some moonlighting for a veterinarian who saved this cotton for use in his practice. He was the most frugal veterinarian I’ve ever met.

Where doers this particular rancor come from? I spoke of no particular puill but aspirin, and said that my own experience was that no other of the puills I bought seemed to have cotton packed over them.

What does your “other than what?” refer to? Something other than cotton? From context it’s clear that I was asking why cotton was paxcked over aspirin (in my experience, only aspirin), and I’m not asking for anything else to take its place.

Learn how to ask questions better, yourself.

Funny, I always thought the cotton was there to absorb any moisture that might build up in the container.

In pill bottles without cotton I often find (not always) a small plastic container of dessicant (sp?) labeled ‘Do Not Eat’.

I haven’t seen cotton in any of my pill bottles for years. I was wondering a while ago when they stopped using it.

I think the confusion is coming from nobody except you mentioned aspirin, and even when you asked your questions (in post #7), you still didn’t! There are no occurences of the word “aspirin” in this thread until your post #7, and even then only in your Woody Allen quote. I was confused too when you kept talking about “other pills”. I was thinking “other than what?”.

Not trying to put words in Excalibre’s mouth, or get in the middle of anything, I just wanted to note that I was confused too. Carry on…

Anyway, in my experience, cotton comes with plain aspirin tablets (not capsules, not caplets, not coated tablets). It also generally comes with vitamin tablets (like multivitamins), but also sometimes vitamin capsules (e.g. vitamin E).