3D print from the pharmacy, so the tablets are finally patient-friendly

Quantum leap innovation from the pharmacist's point of view

Digitization goes hand in hand with new business models. The sentence has no general validity. Sometimes even old business models are reactivated. The following is an example from the area of the future individualized provision of personalized medicine. Only a few pharmacists still produce individual prescription medicines in pharmacy laboratories today. This is still most likely true for dermatological preparations; by no means for the classical "pills" or capsules and certainly not for tablets. The latter, however, could change dramatically due to digitalisation.

The 3-dimensional printing of tablets could find its way into pharmacies. Although not every pharmacy will want to invest in a 3-dimensional (D) printer, specialised hospital pharmacies could well become a pioneer. What exactly is this all about?

In the future, personalised medicine will bring tailor-made therapies for patients. This means that the patient provides a wide range of medical data (via sensors, fitness trackers, etc.) that he has collected himself, which the doctor evaluates and uses as therapy to prescribe any individually effective drugs with exactly the right dosage. The patient therefore comes to the pharmacy with the prescription for a prescription drug as usual or, in the case of the hospital pharmacist, a prescription is applied for internally in the hospital.

What is still little discussed, how the tailor-made drug form gets into the pharmacy and what it looks like?

For oral dosage forms - i.e. tablets - 3D printers are used. The individualised tablet is produced on demand and in the exact quantity required. The external appearance of the tablet can be adapted to the needs of the patient. Ok, but what is the point? An individual dosage prevents overdosage with side effects or underdoses that would otherwise not be effective. In addition, patients should demonstrate better compliance, as these products are manufactured and optimized only for them. There are other technological advantages of 3D tablets. The up to 3-year stability for the shelf life of tablets can be reduced to a few weeks. This eliminates the need for lengthy stability tests. On the other hand, however, it has not yet been clarified what quality controls should look like on site. The optical inspection of the pharmacist alone will certainly not suffice.

But how does digitalisation come into play? First, the doctor will determine the individual dosage using algorithms. Furthermore, the 3D printer will probably work with streamed software drivers, as the licenses for the 3D tablet CAD (Computer Aided Design) models could belong to a pharmaceutical company. The 3D printer will of course only be used for tablet printing, the entire manufacturing process will be certified and will have to meet the requirements of Good Manufacturing Process (GMP).

The pharmacist simply provides the hardware for decentralised production, packaging and distribution. Piloting the 3D printing of tablets is best imagined in hospital pharmacies. In particular, oral oncological preparations could be printed there and distributed directly to inpatients.

In any case, there will be a renaissance of the classic business model of decentralised pharmaceutical production and distribution through 3D printing in pharmacies in conjunction with a quantum leap in innovation. Thus the 3D printing of tablets should establish itself as an interesting and lucrative niche alongside the conventional tablets produced by compaction. Even if the mass-produced traditional tablets, which can be manufactured in large volumes, will still be needed in the future, a new important field for individualized orally effective medicine will emerge.

How do pharmacists assess this assessment of the quantum leap potential of the 3D tablet?


Note: the entire article represents the opinion of the author and not that of any of his previous or current employers, and this publication is not supported by them in any way.


Interested in more blogs about 3D printing?

In the previous episode an introductory overview was given on the topic "The tablet is reinvented: 3D printing makes it possible".


In a next blog the quantum jump innovation from the view of the patient is described.


Dr. Volker Moeckel

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