A couple of years ago, MrConsumer’s doctor recommended that he take 1000 iu of vitamin D a day. Recently he switched from tablets to softgels, and got quite a surprise when he opened the bottle.
Here is the CVS pill bottle with contains 300 softgels:
Upon opening the bottle, MrConsumer discovered that most of the bottle was just filled with air, with the softgels way at the bottom.
In this roughly five-inch high bottle, the pills only occupy the bottom one-and-one-quarter inches.
Had MrConsumer had his trusty x-ray device with him at the store, he would have seen this:
*MOUSE PRINT x-ray:
Presumably there really were 300 softgels in the bottle, so that is not the issue. This is, however, an example of over-packaging or “slack-fill” as it is known. Slack-fill is the difference between the actual capacity of a container and the volume of product contained therein. If the extra space is really non-functional and not required for filling machines to operate properly, the product can be deemed misbranded under federal law.
It certainly would be cheaper for CVS to use a smaller bottle, and better for the environment. One has to wonder, then, why they continue to sell pills in oversized bottles. So we asked them.
“The front label on our over the counter products clearly states the number of pills/capsules/tablets contained in the bottle, as evidenced by the sample photo you provided, to ensure that customers are aware of the quantity being purchased. We also need to ensure that the container is sufficient in size to accommodate the required drug fact information. Generally speaking, manufacturers choose the container size.” — Public Relations, CVS/pharmacy
Coincidentally, Consumer Reports in its August issue shows more examples of air-filled pill bottles and gets other explanations of why this is a common practice.