Updated: Sep 19, 2022
Quick Response (QR) codes are a part of daily life, from social media to business, education, and healthcare. QR codes are two-dimensional barcodes with a square matrix of black and white squares called modules. These square grids allow for greater storage of information that allows for linking websites, advertisements, patient information, etc. The high storage of information in the matrix also allows for QR codes to remain readable when a part is damaged.
Integrating QR codes in healthcare has been shown to improve patient safety, on-demand data access, remote patient monitoring, and combat counterfeit medicines. However, the addition of QR codes in pharmaceutical products would offer the ability to store product safety digitally, medication interactions, and others, update information in real-time for patients and healthcare providers, in addition to being more efficient for combatting counterfeit medications.
Laxxon's Innovative QR Code Printing on 3D Printed Tablets ^
Additive manufacturing, the placement of materials in layers, alongside digital modeling in 3D printing (3D P), allows for unique geometry, content, size, and release attributes of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Additive manufacturing is mainly approached through personalized drug development with production for the mass market. Recent technological developments favor the production of custom drugs for a mass market that can adapt to changing demands at scale.
Advantages of Extrusion-based Printing with 3DP
Extrusion-based printing is a unique 3DP process where the material is specifically distributed. Extrusion-based printing has two main principles: the extruder (which dispenses the selected amount of material over the desired area) and the positioning system. Extrusion-based printing like fused deposition modeling (FDM), direct ink writing (DIW), and the newer 3D screen printing (3DSP) offer enormous potential because of their flexibility and low cost.
The advantage of using 3DSP over FDM and DIW is in the positioning system. While FDM and DIW use a nozzle to extrude material, thus limiting themselves to a single printer, the 3DSP uses a tissue. The tissue use of its area moderates material extrusion for multiple objects at once. The tissue itself is a screen mesh used to transfer a semisolid API holding paste onto a surface, apart from impermeable areas made via blocking stencil. After the distributed material is dried, the following layer is printed on top of the prior layer. 3DSP promises mass customization and the establishment of thousands of units per screen at once.
Laxxon Medical Corp. has formulated SPID®-Technology (Screen Printing Innovative Drug Delivery Technology), which is a patented 3DSP process for printing pharmaceuticals to a mass market that can improve complex drug delivery systems. This technology has been able to print QR codes on tablets and can be incorporated into the manufacturing process. Through this approach, the QR code is now part of the singular production for the tablet. 3DSP can be used to print API holding QR codes and/or links to make it difficult to counterfeit, simpler to identify, and improves product safety.
Two methodologies for printing QR codes on tablets directly:
Printing the code atop the tablet with distinct types of inks. Inkjet printing has succeeded as a workable means for printing QR codes onto an oral dosage formulation. This method provides patients and health care professionals (HPCs) with the assurance they can find the medication and access relevant product information without the need for packaging information. Also, patient safety would improve through automated dispensing via QR code marking. More so, analyzing drug data alongside patient data through an electronic format and when the drug was dispensed may optimize patient safety.
Directly printing QR codes on tablets to embed the code in the tablet. While it’s possible to add grooves to create different regions that could have a readable QR code, it involves two technically different processes. Utilizing 3DSP, two more steps can be added to the same production process to embed a QR code within tablets. Initially, a negative print is distributed on top of the printed tablet’s body using the “negative” screen, then producing grooves are filled with the “positive” screen and colored paste. As needed, the QR code would be sealed by applying a thin layer of transparent paste.
Improving Medication Safety
Communication in product safety is pertinent for comprehending product risks among patients, HCPs, and regulatory authorities. The heart of this dialogue is simply defining what medicine is.
Patients and HPCs are primarily informed about medication risks from the product information available (I.e., package leaflet, labeling of the packaging, and summary of product characteristics). However, the main limitation of this information is the ability to update it. In its current format, discovered safety risks cannot be updated in real-time, making patients susceptible to greater harm from the lack of flexibility of this method for months, perhaps longer. Alongside this, the product information supplied may be missing or abandoned.
Automated dispensing of medications in pharmacies and hospital settings is a standard method to supply medicine to patients on demand and to fill prescriptions as soon as possible. While automated dispensing has been shown to increase patient management and decrease medication errors, QR codes on tablets themselves would greatly improve efficiency as it offers management at the single-tablet level.
Reliable Remote Patient Monitoring
Substantial setbacks in medical treatments involve patients following their prescribed treatment. Overlooking medication use is pertinent to products that are commonly inclined to misuse, like highly addictive substances. Employment of QR codes to label the substance at the single-dosage unit level and monitor the patient’s compliance with their prescribed dose. More so, specific apps may be developed for medication administration that can scan QR-encoded dosages before taking the medication.
Combating Counterfeit Medicines
One of the largest identified fraud markets in the globe is counterfeit medicines. While not prominent in industrialized countries, it is frequent in developing countries. This issue becomes complicated when many consumers are purchasing medications online, amplifying the possibility of getting counterfeit products from global suppliers.
Implementation of QR codes in pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical packaging would make it more challenging to copy medications relative to standard text and image-based labeling in pharmaceuticals. While QR codes could be applied to drug dosage and pharmaceutical packaging, they are only effective if the medications are not repackaged themselves. In-drug labeling would greatly combat counterfeit medications.
QR codes offer an expansive improvement for how patients and HCPs handle prescribed medications and treatments. Additional training would mitigate the technical limitations of certain patients that are uncomfortable or physically incapable of using QR codes and smartphones. While this offers another means to provide updated information to patients, it is simply another supplement to current product information being offered.
Laxxon Medical is dedicated to engineering patented 3D pharmaceutical solutions which 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.