3D Printing in Development of Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms and Personalized Medicine

27 September 2022 09:10 - 09:40

Current technology for development and fabrication of tablets is time consuming and resource intensive that involves the mixing and milling of drugs and additives, preparation and sizing of granules, coating and multiple compression and even drilling of holes into some types of tablets. In case of any change in the shape and size of a tablet, the tableting machine requires a completely new set of tools to match the new shape and altered size. Thus, currently tablets can only be fabricated in large manufacturing facilities, which are not amenable to small-scale fabrication and preparation of personalized dosages. Further, existing tableting machines are not portable because they weigh thousands of pounds and require a separate room for placement. Using the existing technology, we cannot prepare tablets based on patients’ needs, such as elderly patients who take multiple tablets a day or who may not be responsive to a given dose. The 3DP technology can be used to design and fabricate pharmaceutical products and so to reduce the number of processes, eliminate the requirement of equipment retooling, and avoid large manufacturing facilities. We believe 3DP will help personalize treatments:  pharmacists can prepare pills at patients’ bedside such as in hospital and long-term care facilities. Being portable and flexible, 3DP can be used to fabricate tablets of different doses, release profiles, sizes, and shapes, just by changing the computational design. Perhaps, one day, we can prepare and dispense tablets on an as-needed basis instead of making millions of pills in advance, many of which end up in the landfill after expiration. The 3DP technology can be deployed in makeshift hospitals, battlefields, and in areas afflicted by natural disasters. The technology would be at the disposal of health care professionals in case of national emergencies or when commercial products are in short supply.

Fakhrul Ahsan, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, California Northstate University