Excipient (pharmacologically inactive substance)
What is it?
Starches are typically derived from corn or potato, but can also be derived from wheat or rice. Starches are used in the pharmaceutical industry for a wide variety of reasons, such as an excipient, a tablet and capsule diluent, a tablet and capsule disintegrant, a glidant, or as binder. Disintegrants enable tablets and capsules to break down into smaller fragments (dissolve) so that the drug can be released for absorption. Starches also absorb water rapidly, allowing tablets to disintegrate appropriately.
Starches are also used in the food manufacturing industry for processing, and as food thickeners or stabilizers. There are many other diverse uses for starches in the manufacturing industry. Pregelatinized starch derives primarily from corn, has been cooked and then dried. Instant puddings, pie fillings, soup mixes, salad dressings, candy often contain pregelatinized starch.
Pregelatinized starches (dried, cooked starches) are highly digestible. Consumption of excessive quantities of raw starch has resulted in obesity and iron-deficiency anemia in human subjects. However, there is no evidence to suspect a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current or that might reasonably be expected in the future; indeed corn starch is often used in daily cooking.
 Dave RH. Overview of pharmaceutical excipients used in tablets and capsules. Drug Topics (online). Advanstar. 10/24/2008 http://drugtopics.modernmedicine.com/drugtopics/Top+News/Overview-of-pharmaceutical-excipients-used-in-tabl/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/561047. Accessed 08/19/2011