Navigation

News and events

3D printers could create customised medicines on demand, says the University of Central Lancashire

22 October 2014

Lyndsey Boardman

University develops revolutionary technique

Low cost, personalized medicines could soon be readily available thanks to 3D printer technology according to researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The revolutionary technique developed by UCLan, which is currently undergoing a patent application, uses a 3-D printer to ‘print’ a tablet of medicine with realistic quantities that can be taken by a patient. The printer can replicate drugs already available in pharmacies and hospitals, but more importantly can tailor medicines directly to an individual patient’s needs.

This technology will potentially reduce the cost of manufacturing tablets for individual patients - something that cost the NHS over £11,000,000 in one month only in March 2011[1] - while also opening the door to new options for doctors and patients that used to be considered impractical or too expensive.

Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences alongside his team developed a drug-polymer filament system that can replace the original filaments in a 3-D printer.

The team discovered that the new pharmaceutical “ink” allowed the team to print a challenging tablet design with significant improvement of appearance and high accuracy of tablet weight and dose.

"Thanks to this technology, the invented system can provide medical institutions with a new option."

While 3-D printers have been used by hobbyists and SMEs for several years, various individuals and organisations have recently been experimenting with medical uses such as prosthetics or dental implants. But by demonstrating how this technology can be used to develop medicines, the UCLan team has opened up significant opportunities in the pharmaceutical world – particularly around personalized medicines.

UCLan’s project predicts the technique will be used by pharmaceutical firms and hospitals within five years and by the public within a decade.

Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences said: “3-D printing has been embraced by lots of different industries but we have shown how this technology can be harnessed to improve medical care, providing low-cost, personally tailored medicines for patients.

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