New 3D printing method promises personalised pills

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A new 3D printing method promises personalised medicine that could disrupt the 'one-size-fits-all' approach to making pills. 

3D printing method
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The method – developed by a team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Loughborough University – allows the 3D printing of medicine in highly porous structures, which can be used to regulate the rate of drug release from the medicine to the body when taken orally.

Emerging technologies: disrupting the future

Research leader Dr Sheng Qi, a Reader in Pharmaceutics at UEA's School of Pharmacy, said: "Personalised medicine uses new manufacturing technology to produce pills that have the accurate dose and drug combinations tailored to individual patients. This would allow the patients to get maximal drug benefit with minimal side effects.

"Such treatment approaches can particularly benefit elderly patients who often have to take many different types of medicines per day, and patients with complicated conditions such as cancer, mental illness and inflammatory bowel disease."

In a statement, Dr Qi said the team’s work is foundational for the technology needed to produce personalised medicine at the point-of-care, adding that 3D printing has the ability to produce porous pharmaceutical solid dosage forms on-demand.

Pharmaceutical 3D printing research has rapidly developed in the past five years. Most commonly used 3D printing methods require the drug being processed into filaments prior to 3D printing.

The team investigated a newly developed 3D printing method - hot melt droplet deposition - that can rapidly produce porous pharmaceutical tablets without the use of filaments. The results revealed that by changing the size of the pores, the speed of a drug escaping from the tablet into the body can be regulated.

According to the UEA, further research will be required to use the porosity to tailor the dose and dosing frequency of medicine to individual patient's needs and use this principle to build multiple medicines into a single daily poly-pill for patients who are on a complex medicine regiment.

The project findings,'Effects of porosity on drug release kinetics of swellable and erodible porous pharmaceutical solid dosage forms fabricated by hot melt droplet deposition 3D printing', are published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.