Moving from bulk manufacturing to production of personalised medicines will require new technologies. By producing drugs in dosages, release profiles and combinations optimised to each patient, inkjet printing could meet this need, prompting AstraZeneca to look at the technology.
“[Inkjet printers put] designed ratios of drugs and excipients as individual microdots onto a suitable substrate, each capable of the controlled release of the active from that deposit”, researchers from AstraZeneca and academia wrote in a paper published in Journal of Controlled Release.
The research looked at using piezoelectric printing to formulate felodipine, a poorly soluble high blood pressure treatment marketed by AstraZeneca as Plendil. In piezoelectric printing a voltage is applied to eject liquid from the nozzle and, in this case, on to a hydrophobic substrate.
Printing thousands of spots with one or more drugs would create a formulation capable of delivering a therapeutic dose. Furthermore, the treatment would be tailored to the individual’s needs and could be produced at the point of care, a hospital for instance.
“The ubiquitous and inherently scalable nature of [inkjet printing] would make implementation at the point of care and scaling of manufacture a possibility”, the researchers wrote.
An alternative approach
The research follows a paper published by Hewlett Packard in 2008. Earlier this year a team of European academics also researched the technology , claiming inkjet printers are “powerful tools for automated manufacture of pharmaceuticals” with personalised medicine applications.
Hewlett Packard used thermal inkjet printing, whereas the AstraZeneca team chose piezoelectric because it can handle a wider range of solvents. Picking from a larger pool of solvents increases the number of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) that can be formulated using the printer.