National University of Singapore scientists have designed a tablet that can contain multiple drugs, which may simplify, as well as lower the price, of patient drug regimens in the future. The tablet can also time the release of component drugs differently, tailored to the needs of each individual patient. The use of 3D printing for the components would allow doctors to quickly design tablets for the needs of individual patients on the spot. It is not yet known when these tablets will be available, but the inventors say they are in talks with a large firm.
The potential for on the spot customization using this method is unprecedented. Until 3D printing was available, personalized tablets had been a prospect too complex to make into a reality. Commercially available 3D printers also make the process relatively affordable. Instead of printing one layer at a time, the tablet is composed of 3 separate layers, one of which includes the drug formed into one of a range of possible shapes, the choice of which would determine the rate of release into the body. In one example, a 5 pronged shape can yield 5 distinct bursts of the medication over time.
The pill, created by researchers Soh Siow Ling and Sun Yajuan, addresses a number of problems for patients and doctors. Multiple medications timed differently throughout the day can be confusing for some patients, and may result in skipped or improperly timed doses. Because of the separate, customized components, multiple drugs can be scheduled to release at different rates, turning a complex schedule of different medications into the simple task of taking one pill a day.
The new tablet design is not the first to attempt such a goal, but existing 3D printed tablet-production methods have been plagued by a variety of limitations. Some are limited to low dosages, or have had uneven release times, or durability issues. This new method can be applied in traditional mass production settings, or be used to produce on the spot, customized medication for patients. The production system would be easy to use for doctors, involving software that allows doctors to select medications and simply draw the intended release pattern for each patient. The new tablet design improves on older methods to create the revolutionary personalized pill, which could be easily used by doctors to improve and simplify the lives of their patients.