Pharmacies Could Soon Offer Customized, 3D-Printed Medication on Demand

Scientists have developed a tool that can print customized pills which self-regulate the timing and frequency of the release of medicine.

A 3D printer. (Image by Graftencom from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

(CN) — The days of waiting some time for a pharmacist to fill a prescription made by your doctor may soon be behind us.

Pharmacies, doctors’ offices and other medical institutions could one day offer individual patients medications that are customized to their needs using 3D printing technology. The new technology has been developed in recent years under an expanding field of pharmaceutical research aiming to understand how to shape the effect medication has on patients. 

The 3D-printed pill model could spark a wave of personalized pharmacological interventions tailored to meet the unique needs of all patients, according to lead researcher of the study Sheng Qi.  

Qi, a professor at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, said in a statement released with the study that the current pharmacological landscape currently takes the opposite approach, manufacturing one form of medication meant to satisfy all patients.

“Personalized 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,” Qi said. “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.”

The study’s findings could one day shape an element of personalized medicine that can create a tailored pharmacological regimen at the site where patients are being treated, Qi said.

Most 3D-printed products and objects use a device that heats filament material and places tiny fragments of the filament into a custom pattern. 

The personalized pills are created using a newly developed 3D printing method that can shape a pill containing the medication without the use of filaments. 

The research team led by Qi has developed the ability to print pills that feature more porous structures allowing for faster or slower release of medicine when taken orally.

The findings show that the speed of medicine dispersing within the body can be regulated by pill structures created using the new technology, according to the study published Monday in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics.

The study said future research is needed to make the technology produce pills that can regulate dosing frequency. 

If the technology is improved, people on complex medical regimens requiring multiple medications taken each day could one day be able to take one pill that slowly releases a day’s worth of doses.

Researchers Andy Gleadall and Richard Bibb of England’s Loughborough University also contributed to the study. 

Members of the study team did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the report.

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