Additive manufacturing with 3D printing with polymer filaments has been heralded as a manufacturing game changer, and pharmaceutical manufacturing is no exception. Personalizing drug doses with 3D printing using hot melt extrusion shows potential. “In the future, the pharmacist will be able to print their tablets in the pharmacy,” asserts Dr. Abu T. Serajuddin, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at St. John’s University. Using 3D printing, he continues, “We can print an exact dose.”
How is this possible? Dr. Serajuddin’s research creates custom filaments to be fed into traditional 3D printers from companies such as MakerBot, and then print to the size or form factor designed to meet a patient’s needs. “We make the formulations using different drugs and different polymers, and those we extrude through a melt extruder, (and) we get the filaments.”
The hot melt extruder is a tool commonly used to make polymer materials. In pharmaceutical hot melt extrusion (HME), active pharmaceutical ingredients are compounded in a polymer matrix. For 3D printing, we extrude filaments, or threads, of medicine onto a spool, which can then be fed into a 3D printer to create individualized doses of medicine.
Practically a novel idea even a year or two ago, creating personalized drug doses with 3D printing may well become a reality in the near future. “We’ve made much development in the past few years,” and “the melt extruder is the key component in the whole process.”
In a fascinating video, Dr. Sarajuddin explains the process and demonstrates how these filaments are made and used in a 3D printer. Researchers are shown loading the filaments into the printers and printing personalized tablets. While the process is still being developed, Dr. Serajuddin says, “This will have a major impact on how we manufacture pharmaceuticals in the future.” Watch the video here.