Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MALDI MSI) has been used to directly analyse a range of tablets in order to assess the homogeneity of the active drug compound throughout the excipients contained within the tablets studied. The information gained from the imaging experiments can be used to improve and gain a greater understanding of the manufacturing process; such knowledge will enable improvements in finished product quality to make safer and more efficacious tablet formulations. Commercially available and prescription tablet formulations have been analysed, including aspirin, paracetamol, sildenafil citrate (Viagra®) and a batch of tablets in development (tablet X: placebo; 1 mg; 3 mg and 6 mg). MALDI MSI provides semi-quantitative information that is related to ion abundance, therefore Principal Component Analysis (PCA), a multivariate analysis technique, has been used to differentiate between tablets containing different amounts of active drug ingredient. Aspects of sample preparation have also been investigated with regard to tablet shape and texture. The results obtained indicate that MALDI MSI can be used effectively to analyse the spatial distribution of the active pharmaceutical component (API) in pharmaceutical tablet formulations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.