Researchers from University of Leeds, Durham University and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are working on technology that would permit the printing of pharmaceutical ingredients directly onto tablets, currently only possible for a small set of drugs. The technology would allow precise regulation of the quantity of active ingredients in each pill and may even permit doctors to set individual doses based on the unique nature of each patient.
GSK has developed a way of printing active pharmaceutical ingredients onto tablets – but the process can only currently be applied to just 0.5 per cent of all medicines used in tablet form. The researchers hope the new project will see this increase this to 40 per cent.
“Some active ingredients can be dissolved in a liquid, which then behaves like normal ink, so then the process is fairly straightforward,” explains Dr Kapur. “However, when you’re working with active ingredients that don’t dissolve, the particles of the drug are suspended in the liquid, which creates very different properties and challenges for use within a printing system.
“For some tablets, you may also need higher concentrations of active ingredients to create the right dose, and this will affect how the liquid behaves.”
A medicine droplet is 20 times larger than an ink droplet in a standard ink-jet system, so the challenges facing the researchers include the numbers of drops that each tablet can hold, and how to increase the level of active ingredient in each drop. The research will also look at the properties and behaviour of the suspension, the shape and size of the printing nozzle and ways to pump the suspension through the printing equipment.
University of Leeds press release: New research into safer drugs puts pills through the printer…