Using sensory and consumer science in drug delivery system optimization: mixed methods in women of color as a case study

Alyssa J. Bakke, Toral Zaveri, Gregory R. Ziegler, John E. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although sensory and consumer science methods may have originated in the food and beverage industries, they have widespread application for many other products, including fast moving consumer goods, personal care, and more recently, pharmaceuticals. Here, we present the later as a case study, showing how sensory methods can be applied to preclinical optimization of drug delivery systems. Past clinical trials suggest vaginal microbicides may be an effective means for women to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs); critically however, these microbicides will not work if they are not used due to poor acceptability. Multiple factors influence microbicide acceptability, including product features as well as cultural and social factors. In an iterative process, we developed soft-gel vaginal suppositories and have shown that properties like firmness, size, and shape all influence women's willingness to try. However, our prior work was conducted among white women in a rural setting, so we revisited these questions in women of color using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Here, women of color evaluated suppositories of different fracturability, firmness, size, and shape. We assessed willingness to try and imagined ease of insertion, and used Just About Right (JAR) scales to measure appropriateness of firmness and size. To better understand reasons underlying these quantitative results, qualitative reactions to suppositories of different sizes, shapes, and firmness level were obtained via focus groups with women of color. This work illustrates a) how sensory and consumer science methods can be used to optimize acceptability of drug delivery systems, and b) how mixed methods provide more complete insights than purely quantitative approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - Apr 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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