3D Printing a Theophylline Tablet
Medicine is in a constant state of improvement and one area that is recently under exploration is 3D printing. The unique printers have been around for a while, but usually use plastic or other non-ingestible materials for the printing. That has changed now.
Dr. Mohamed Albed Alhnan of the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences has developed a new type of drug polymer that can replace the original filaments used in 3D printers. The new substance allows scientists to print their own tablets of medicine.
Why Print a Tablet?
At first glance, the process of 3D printing a tablet for medicine may seem overkill, but it’s actually a very precise method of creating a dosage. The printer can make a better tablet design and gives the specific weight and dosage required for the medication.
The scientific team printed theophylline, as it is a medication that requires precise measurements and is a complex tablet to create.
Theophylline is a medication that works as a bronchodilator, or to open up the bronchioles. It is most often used as a treatment for asthma or for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It contains methylxanthine, which requires careful dosage amounts.
To create an extended-release tablet using this medication, scientists had to make a semi solid tablet with varying drug dosages, including 75, 100, and 125 mg. They needed first to come up with a way to replace the usual filaments with the medication, which would be easily measurable and hold together in tablet form.
The hydrogel matrix selected was porous so it could encapsulate theophylline clusters. This was essential in creating a tablet that would release slowly over a 12-hour period. Tests showed that this was quite possible, so scientists began their experiment. The material was ideal as it had the texture and structure to best incorporate medication and to create a carefully measured amount of medication.
The machine was loaded with the hydrogel filaments and used to print the tablet. While this particular instance was just to see if it was possible, the experiment has major implications for the future.
What This Means for the Future of Medicine
Now that we know it is possible to 3D print precise dosages of medication that can be released over a long period of time for maximum effect, this technology could be used with any type of medication. It would be particularly useful for medications that require micro-dosing over many hours with timed release.
However, currently, printing tablets is still experimental, expensive, and time-consuming. The industry will need to overcome these restraints before it becomes commonplace to print our medication.
There’s no doubt that 3D printing of medicine is a tremendous breakthrough. When this technology will be fully available remains to be seen.
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