This investigation has examined the use of zein proteins from maize as the major component in oral controlled-release tablets, such formulations often being required to improve patient compliance. Tablets containing ground zein proteins, calcium hydrogen orthophosphate, polyvinyl pyrrolidone, theophylline and magnesium stearate were produced by wet granulation and compression on a single station tablet press and were compared to directly compressed tablets based on zein proteins, calcium hydrogen orthophosphate and theophylline. Non invasive techniques such as Fourier Transform infrared spectroscopy and Fourier Transform Raman spectroscopy were employed to investigate any changes in the secondary structure of zein proteins during tablet production. Random coils, α helices and β sheets predominated and their relative content remained unaffected during grinding, wet granulation and compression, indicating that formulations based on zeins will be robust, i.e. insensitive to minor changes in the production conditions. Drug release from the tablets was studied using a standard pharmacopoeial dissolution test. Dissolution profiles in water, 0.1 M HCl (pH = 1) and phosphate buffer (pH = 6.8) show that only a limited amount of theophylline was released after 4.5 h, suggesting that zein proteins could act as a potential vehicle for oral controlled drug release. Analysis of the theophylline release profiles using the Peppas and Sahlin model reveals that diffusion and polymer relaxation occurred in acidic (pH = 1) and buffered (pH = 6.8) conditions for wet granulated tablets, whereas diffusion was predominant in directly compressed tablets. In conclusion, the present study has shown that zeins can be successfully used as a pharmaceutical excipient, and in particular as a matrix in monolithic controlled release tablets.