Why is methyl cellulose used as a pharmaceutical excipient? Is it due to certain chemical properties? What are the reasons for relying on the chemical properties of methyl cellulose?


3 Answers 3


Methyl cellulose is a dry binder. It is used to make a pill with a small mass of active ingredient and as much binder as required to make the pill a manageable size.

The following properties make methyl cellulose a good dry binder:

  • inexpensive
  • non-allergic
  • vegetarian
  • soluble in cold water
  • non-digestable
  • nontoxic

Most of this information is from the Wikipedia article.


Like cellulose, it is not digestible, not toxic, and not an allergen. Bacteria cannot digest, methyl cellulose, so they cannot grow using MC as carbon source. It is artificially synthesized produced by heating cellulose with NaOH.


It is a filler/binding agent. Thus MC belongs in the context of a drug to the group of so called excipients. The study of the best suitable excipients (as a tradeoff of factors such as cost, and ease of approving the drug) is called galenics.

Methyl cellulose is also present in your toothpaste and some of the foods your eat and in the construction industry. It can be considered to be metabolically inert for humans, but can serve as a matrix for enhancing bacterial adhesion and biofilm formation.

The gradual smudging and staining of your bathroom washbowl may be largely attributable to MC and bacteria.

MC is a polymer that is sold as dry powder of various mean chain lengths. It is hydrophilic and can retain large volumes of water.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd avoid using code formatting for emphasis, it looks a bit out of place and that is not what this option is meant for. There's also bold and italic available, though I wouldn't emphasize that many parts in a post, too much and it gets distracting again. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2012 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Unless it is explicitly prohibited, I will prefer that formatting. Thanks for understanding. I consider bold formatting to be more out of place. Different strokes for different folks... $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2012 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ @LoSauer it's considered extremely bad practice across the network, therefore it would be much better not to use the formatting in this way. $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Sep 26, 2012 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryM You point towards an stackoverflow-thread, yet there is a meta-site for this biology community. I put this issue up for discussion on meta. Till then please regard the editing guidelines. thanks. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2012 at 13:02

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