New Additive Manufacturing Method Could Allow 3D Printing of Custom Medicine

A study by scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) analyzed technology to 3D “print” pills and demonstrated that customized medicines could someday be manufactured as per individual requirements of patients.

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The research group, which also included Dr Andy Gleadall and Professor Richard Bibb from Loughborough University, has discovered a new additive manufacturing technique to enable the 3D printing of medicine in highly porous structures, which can further be utilized to control the drug release rate from the medicine to the body when it is consumed orally.

The study was headed by Dr Sheng Qi, a Reader in Pharmaceutics at UEA’s School of Pharmacy. The results of the study, titled “Effects of porosity on drug release kinetics of swellable and erodible porous pharmaceutical solid dosage forms fabricated by hot melt droplet deposition 3D printing,” was reported recently in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

Currently our medicines are manufactured in ‘one-size-fits-all’ fashion. 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.

Dr Sheng Qi, Study Lead and Reader in Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of East Anglia

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,” added Qi.

Dr Qi stated that it was teamwork that is building the base for the technology that would be required in the future to make personalized medicine at the point of care. Also, Qi added that 3D printing possessed a special potential to make porous pharmaceutical solid dosage forms on request.

As a new field of research, pharmaceutical 3D printing research has developed quickly in the last five years. 3D printing techniques that are most generally employed would need the processing of the drug into spaghetti-like filaments before 3D printing is performed.

The researchers analyzed a newly developed 3D printing technique that has the ability to quickly produce porous pharmaceutical tablets without using filaments. The findings showed that by altering the pore size, the speed with which a drug is released from the tablet into the body can be controlled.

Additional studies will be needed to use the porosity to customize the dose and dosing frequency (that is, once daily or twice daily) of medicine to the needs of every patient, as well as use this principle to construct various medicines into a single daily poly-pill for patients who are on a complicated medicine regiment.

Journal Reference:

Zhang, B., et al. (2021) Effects of porosity on drug release kinetics of swellable and erodible porous pharmaceutical solid dosage forms fabricated by hot melt droplet deposition 3D printing. International Journal of Pharmaceutics.


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