Panadol: Optizorb in Paracetamol, Explained

Sunday, January 26, 2014 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

Panadol is a new brand of Paracetamol in the Philippines, launched officially on January 24, 2014 in The Peninsula Manila. A quick look at the label of Panadol shows you why it promises to be better: It gets dissolved faster than other Paracetamol brands.

What does that mean exactly? Does that make Panadol a faster-acting Paracetamol? Does that make Panadol a better Paracetamol?

Panadol PH

The label shows you the magic formula: Optizorb. Optizorb transforms Panadol into a tablet that dissolves faster than other brands of Paracetamol currently available in the Philippines. (Find out what happened during the media launch of Panadol.)

But what on earth is Optizorb? Can I, like, put it in my coffee?

Panadol Drug Literature

First, let’s take a look at Panadol. This is the info you will find on its label – it includes instructions, contraindications, drug interactions, and adverse reactions.

Panadol instructions

Panadol warning

Paracetamol side effects

Contraindications to Paracetamol

In other words, the label reveals that Panadol has the same indications, contraindications, and side effects as other Paracetamol brands. So, let’s go back to a more pressing matter: What is Optizorb and how does it make Panadol different?

Optizorb in Panadol – Faster Paracetamol Disintegration

Optizorb is the registered trademark for a drug technology that allows fast disintegration of a tablet. But you already knew that. You probably didn’t know, however, that Optizorb is made of different ingredients.

Optizorb in PanadolOptizorb makes Panadol different, but what is it exactly?

According to Panadol’s website, Optizorb is made of the following:

  1. An ingredient that is found commonly in other tablets. This ingredient releases air (in the form of carbon dioxide) so that the tablet becomes effervescent. This reminds me a little bit of Berocca.
  2. Another substance that is touted as a super-disintegrant. Again, this ingredient plays a role in ensuring that the tablet dissolves quickly.
  3. A substance that is naturally-occurring which absorbs water like a sponge does. As the Paracetamol tablet balloons with the water it absorbs, it dissolves faster. (I don’t know what that specific substance is, however. Is it a type of glycogen? Is it a proteoglycan? Is it made of fiber?

    Unrelated medical fact: Just because a substance occurs naturally in nature doesn’t mean it’s safe. Many types of poison occur naturally, for instance. I’m not saying Panadol isn’t safe – it is just as safe as other types of Paracetamol, according to its label. But we should really stop trusting “naturally-occurring substances” automatically.

Okay, that doesn’t exactly answer the question of whether or not you can put it in your coffee. But then again, I don’t see why you should. (Come on, you’re enough of a caffeine addict. Any more caffeine in your blood and you will have more coffee than blood in your veins.)

Now, the question I had in mind all along. Drum roll, please, as I share that question and attempt to answer it:

Panadol dissolves faster. But does it provide faster pain relief?

If the rate of disintegration is faster in Panadol, it means it can get absorbed into the circulation earlier than other types of Paracetamol. Theoretically, it may mean an earlier onset of action as well.

Quick refresher for those who did not have pharmacology units in college: A drug’s onset of action is the time it’s expected to reach minimum therapeutic levels. Simply put, it’s the amount of time you expect the drug’s magic to start taking effect.

But that’s all theoretical and I would still love to see a study where Panadol trumps Biogesic and Tempra in terms of onset of analgesia. Still, barring any unforeseen extraneous factors and circumstances, Panadol should lead to pain relief earlier than other Paracetamol brands.

What if Panadol disintegrates earlier in the stomach but has less bioavailability than other types of Paracetamol? What if Panadol dissolves faster, but it’s actually harder for it to cross over from the digestive tract into the bloodstream?

Those scenarios probably aren’t the case. But it wouldn’t hurt to have a study that says Panadol has a faster onset of action than other Paracetamols. “Faster onset of action” and “faster dissolution” are not the same banana.

Again, in English: Just because a tablet becomes mulch in your tummy faster than other drugs doesn’t mean it circulates in the bloodstream or reaches its target faster. It probably does, but I would be happy if GSK came up with a study that eliminated any doubt from my mind.

Kudos to GSK for being very careful about their claims regarding Panadol. I never – not once – read anything saying Panadol acts faster. They just say, “It dissolves faster.” They played it fair.

Another important question: If Panadol dissolves more quickly, does it mean it’s more efficacious? What if it dissolves faster but a lesser fraction of the drug actually gets absorbed and metabolized by the body? What if the ingredients of Optizorb actually affect the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the Paracetamol in Panadol?

Unfortunately, these questions can’t be answered without studies. If a drug’s makeup is changed, it isn’t prudent to assume that it has the same pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetic properties as that of an unaltered drug.

But don’t be bummed by what I’m saying here. There is so much more to the story than how fast a drug gets dissolved in the stomach. But it looks like in that arena, Panadol is definitely ahead.

Panadol: Should I Take It for Pain Relief?

My gratitude goes out to GSK for having me at the press launch. I saw Ms. Christine Jacob in action, hosting the affair, and I noticed how fit she looked.

Seeing her reminded me about how I should stick to my “eat healthy and start exercising, you lazy couch potato” fitness regimen. However, thinking about all the exercise I had to do and the food I had to avoid just gave me a splitting headache.

Ouch. I guess that means I will be using Panadol with Optizorb after all. Fate has a quirky sense of humor, doesn’t it? And, considering how you lasted this long on my blog, I believe you do, too. Send a kiss

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!