3D printed drugs could revolutionise prescriptions

3D printers which usually produce polymers, have been adapted to produce pharmaceutical compounds

3D printers, which usually produce polymers, have been adapted to produce pharmaceutical compounds Photo: Alamy

It is the innovation that has is being used to create everything from a
replacement pelvis to spare parts to digestible food for the elderly.

Now the 3D printer could be about to revolutionise the field of prescription
medicines, by custom-making them for individual patients by delivering
exactly the correct dose, to the nearest microgram.

Scientists from the University of Central Lancashire are patenting a new
system of printing drugs, which could save the NHS the millions of pounds
spent on mass-producing medicines.

The filaments of the 3D printer, which usually produce polymers, have been
adapted to produce pharmaceutical compounds.

Its inventors say that it will spell the end of the ‘one size fits all’ dose,
which often leads patients taking too much or too little of a prescribed
drug. Patients will even be able to print their own drugs.

Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan, the pharmacist who heads the team which is patenting
the device, said: “As pharmacists we are aware of the problems that exist.

“At the moment we are making standard medicines, a one size fits all, but now
the trend is to prescribe medicine specifically tailored for individual
patients, which is where the new method comes in.”

He added that with some medication, such as that given to a liver patient, a
fraction of a milligram of a drug makes a big difference and at the moment
it is extremely expensive to tailor to these needs.

Dr Alhnan said his team worked on the project for more than a year and
although they have already submitted patency papers there were still a lot
of “hoops to jump through” before the method is in general use.

He added: “Thanks to this technology, the invented system can provide medical
institutions with a new option and maintain dosage form properties while
accurately adjusting the dose with simple software order, something that was
considered before to be costly and required experienced staff and dedicated

“Eventually, we hope to see that units can be kept at home for patients who
continuously need to change their daily dose.”

It is predicted that the technique will be used by pharmaceutical firms and
hospitals within five years and by the public within a decade.