Sep 5, 2017 | By David

We’ve reported several times before on the development of 3D printed pharmaceuticals, as both standard extrusion and more advanced stereolithography techniques have been used to make pills and tablets for various types of medicine. The School of Pharmacy at University College London was the site of a major SLA milestone just over a year ago, as a team there successfully 3D printed an oral tablet using this method for the first time. Researchers from the same school, in collaboration with FabRx Ltd, have now produced the first 3D printed pharmaceutical using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process.

FabRx is a bio-technology business that was established back in 2014 by two academics who themselves belonged to its current partner in 3D printed drug research, UCL’s School of Pharmacy. Their collaborative efforts have brought SLS 3D printing into contention as a viable technique for 3D printing pharmaceuticals, at a crucial time for market. The first 3D printed drug to get FDA approval was Aprecia’s Spritam, an epilepsy medication, back in 2014. This went on sale for the first time last year, and its success is paving the way for a 3D printing takeover of the pharmaceuticals industry.

The benefits of using 3D printing to produce drugs, for consumers as well as pharmaceutical companies and medical services, are many and varied. Our feature article on 3D printed pharmaceuticals outlines most of the issues involved with the process. The main advantages, in a nutshell, are similar to those offered by 3D printing to most industrial manufacturing. Improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness of production is brought about, as the drugs can be made faster, in much smaller batches, with fewer materials. The technology also allows for drugs to be customized, meaning that a patient can get a personalised dosage as well as a specific shape of pill or binding agent to make the drug easier to administer.

The results of the collaboration between UCL School of Pharmacy and FabRx were published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics. In the first study, paracetamol was selected as a model drug and mixed with pharmaceutical excipients. This mixture was incorporated into the regular powder bed of a standard commercial SLS machine, the Sintratec. The Sintratec is one of the first desktop 3D printers that uses the SLS process. It allowed printlets of various different shapes and sizes to be produced, with a personalized dose of paracetamol in each one.

Tests were carried out on the printlets using a Dynamic Dissolution Model, which precisely simulates gastrointestinal conditions. The drug was released at various rates, depending on the selected excipients in the initial powder mixture. Doses were precise, and no drug degradation was measured.

The benefits of the SLS technique, which uses a laser to draw a pattern on an elevating powder bed in order to build up a 3D object layer-by-layer, over other methods, are that it offers increased resolution, and is an entirely solvent-free process. Pills can be made with a range of different colors, sizes, textures, flavours, and shapes, suitable for different patient’s needs or preferences. As SLS 3D printing becomes more accessible and more 3D printed drugs get FDA clearance, pharmaceuticals should start to change drastically. The technique pioneered here by FabRx and UCL could prove to be a major influence on the treatment of all kinds of illnesses and conditions.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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