3D printing could be the future of personalised medication

8 Feb 2022

Researchers at The University of Queensland are investigating the use of 3D printing technology to develop personalised medication for patients.

Liam Krueger, a registered pharmacist and a PhD student from Associate Professor Amirali Popat’s group at UQ’s School of Pharmacy is the first author on the perspective paper which suggests the technology is refined enough to accurately print specialised dosages onsite in hospitals and pharmacies in the future.

“The advancement of 3D printing technology means that we can tailor medication for patients to ensure it has the exact doses or combinations for their specific needs,” Mr Krueger said.

“Through 3D printing we can combine five pills into one, and even change the size, shape, colour, flavour or texture of a pill.

“3D printing is regularly used in other medical settings such as dentistry to create implants, however the utilisation of the technology is lagging in the pharmaceutical space.

“With this research we are hoping to gain more momentum for the implementation of this technology which would be an incredible opportunity for the future of the Australian pharmaceutical landscape."

Over the last decade, 3D printing has revolutionised the pharmaceutical industry with numerous studies confirming safety, efficacy, and feasibility since the first printed drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015.

The materials and machinery are available in terms of research and development to manufacture 3D printed medication, however there are still logistical challenges to consider before the technology can be adopted into medical institutions.

This includes the printing time with a singular, standard sized ten-millimetre diameter by three-millimetre height pill estimated to take around three minutes, and a batch of 28 taking around 45 minutes.

Co-responding author on the paper, Associate Professor Amirali Popat said the research and development in technology could also help to reduce polypharmacy.

“Polypharmacy is the concurrent use of five or more medicines, and roughly two-thirds of Australians aged 75 years are in this classification,” A/Prof Popat said.

“The real benefit of this technology sits with the consumer or patient, and while we still have a way to go until we see it become a reality in healthcare settings it’s an extremely exciting development.”

Associate Professor Chris Freeman (National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia) who is a co-author on the paper said “In the future 3D printing could help people with multiple medications in taking the right medication at the right time, at the right dose and potentially reducing nonadherence”.

The paper has been published in the The Medical Journal of Australia, and is just the start of larger body of research to collect data on the viability of using 3D printing technology for personalised medicine.

Media Contact: Mr Liam Kruger l.krueger@uq.net.au, Dr Amirali Popat a.popat@uq.edu.auUQ Communications Bridget Druery b.druery@uq.edu.au
+61 435 221 246