For over the past 50 years, pharmaceuticals have been produced using a process called batch manufacturing. Batch manufacturing is a multi-step process that uses large-scale equipment and takes a long time due to the quality control testing required after each step of the process.
Manufacturing in batches often necessitates pharmaceuticals to have the same exact shape, size, and dosage since the large-scale equipment is designed to mass produce the pharmaceuticals in a specialized, pre-programmed way with very little allowance for flexibility or alterations in the manufacturing process.
This type of manufacturing process aligns with the early phases of drug clinical trials. Phase I and II clinical trials specifically determine the exact dose of the drug required to achieve the optimal therapeutic effects on the largest proportion of people with a specific condition while causing the least amount of adverse side effects.
This one-size-fits-most method of pharmaceutical manufacturing does not promote precision or personalized medicine. Batch manufacturing does not account for the multitude of individual differences that can affect how each person metabolizes a given amount of a particular drug. These individual differences may include first-pass metabolism, genetics, age, and comorbid conditions—some of which may contribute to organ dysfunction.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing paradigms are changing.
As healthcare shifts more toward precision medicine, new technologies are required to allow for mass production of pharmaceuticals that are tailored to the individual. 3D printing is one such technological advancement that addresses these issues in the pharmaceutical industry.
Wang and colleagues published a journal article in Pharmaceutics in February 2023, reviewing the benefits of applying 3D printing technology to pharmaceutical manufacturing. They wrote:
"Compared to traditional preparation technologies, 3D printing offers:
flexibility in the design of complex 3D structures within drugs,
adjustment of drug doses and combinations,
rapid manufacturing and prototyping,
precise control of drug release to meet a wide range of clinical needs,
a high degree of flexibility and creativity to personalize pharmaceuticals and
a significant reduction in preparation development time,
driving a breakthrough in drug manufacturing technology and transforming the way we design, manufacture, and use drugs."
So, how can 3D screen printing improve the patient experience?
Consequently, 3D screen printing can improve the patient experience because patients would be able to:
take personalized medications formulated just for them,
get their medications faster with fewer manufacturing delays,
take fewer medications on a daily basis when multiple drugs are combined into a single multidrug tablet (which also can minimize confusion and risk of medication errors if a person is used to taking multiple medications that look similar), and
Experience fewer side effects and prolonged or increased efficacy of the medication because the 3D printed design is tailored to their unique physiology.
3D printed pharmaceuticals can improve patient safety and adherence to medications by reducing medication errors or missed doses with QR code integration, which allows the patient to scan the medication and access relevant product information before consumption to make sure it is the correct medication. QR codes can also make counterfeiting medications much harder, also improving patient safety.
QR code integration can also benefit healthcare workers in a busy hospital setting with frequent medication changes and patient turnover to ensure the accuracy of medication dispensation and minimize provider errors. Healthcare providers can also track patient compliance virtually as long as patients routinely scan the QR code before taking each tablet.
3D technology can also allow for the printing of special shapes or symbols (braille) on the surface of the tablets for patients with visual impairments. 3D printing can improve adherence among children by improving the appearance (more fun shapes and colors) or taste of the medications, as well as enable easy manufacturing of lower dosage forms that are customized for children.
3D printing technology most certainly opens the doors to a whole new world of possibilities when applied to drug manufacturing. It has the potential to make truly personalized pharmaceuticals a reality.
Laxxon Medical is dedicated to engineering patented 3D pharmaceutical solutions that optimize products and benefit patients. Our goal is to establish SPID®-Technology as a manufacturing process that has the individual and the pharmaceutical partner in mind.
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