3D printed pills point to personalised medicine

Personalised medicine could be made possible with a new technique for 3D printing medication that can deliver timed doses.

Multiple drugs can be 3D printed  in a single tablet
Multiple drugs can be 3D printed in a single tablet - Nottingham University

Led by Nottingham University, the new technique enables the printing of multiple drugs in a single tablet.

Researchers from the University’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing and School of Pharmacy fabricated personalised medicine using Multi-Material InkJet 3D Printing (MM-IJ3DP). The research is detailed in Materials Today Advances.

The team has developed a method that enables the fabrication of customised pharmaceutical tablets with tailored drug release profiles, ensuring more precise and effective treatment options for patients.

This is made possible by a novel ink formulation based on molecules that are sensitive to ultraviolet light. When printed, these molecules form a water-soluble structure.

The drug release rate is controlled by the interior structure of the tablet, allowing for timing the dosage release. This method can print multiple drugs in a single tablet, allowing for complex medication regimens to be simplified into a single dose.

In a statement, research lead Dr Yinfeng He, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Engineering’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing, said: “This is an exciting step forwards in the development of personalised medication. This breakthrough not only highlights the potential of 3D printing in revolutionising drug delivery but also opens up new avenues for the development of next-generation personalised medicines.”

“While promising, the technology faces challenges, including the need for more formulations that support a wider range of materials. The ongoing research aims to refine these aspects, enhancing the feasibility of MM-IJ3DP for widespread application,” said Professor Ricky Wildman.

According to the University, this technology will be particularly beneficial in creating medication that needs to release drugs at specific times. The ability to print 56 pills in a single batch demonstrates the scalability of this technology, providing a strong potential for the production of personalised medicines.

Co-author Professor Felicity Rose at the University’s School of Pharmacy, said: “The future of prescribed medication lies in a personalised approach, and we know that up 50 per cent of people in the UK alone don’t take their medicines correctly and this has an impact on poorer health outcomes with conditions not being controlled or properly treated. A single pill approach would simplify taking multiple medications at different times and this research is an exciting step towards that.”