Bringing 3D printing to community pharmacy

Pharmacy compounding, local medicine production, close to the patient and adapted to individual needs, has been around for many decades but the techniques used have not changed much over the years. A more innovative option is the production of 3D printed tablets, and benchtop FDM printers would fit in any community or hospital pharmacy.

One of the largest advantages of 3D printing is the scalability at the design stage. This means that, in theory, the options to produce a tablet according to the preferences and needs of a specific patient are tremendous. Although this might look very promising, both regulatory considerations and more technical aspects should be carefully investigated.

Our research aims to asses if FDM could be used to produce reproducible and functional printlets and to understand which printing properties affect the release kinetics of a printlet. After designing a printlet with a shape comfortable for patients to swallow, the following quality control tests were performed: dimensions, uniformity of mass, hardness, friability, uniformity of content and release kinetics by dissolution.
As for the different applications we have looked into, we can describe low dose Hydrocortisone therapy for pediatric patients with adrenal insufficiency and Zolpidem tapering schemes.

A presentation by Jan Saevels, Scientific Director at Association of Pharmacists Belgium (APB)


Question 1: What drives you?
Personalised medicines seem to be something exclusive and technically challenging, but community pharmacies have been compounding for many decades. I have the feeling that 3DP might just be THE approach for a revival of compounding, and it is fascinating to be able to contribute.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
Delegates will be able to learn that 3DP close to the patient, at the level of the community or hospital pharmacy, adds benefits that other ways of producing medicines lack.

Question 3: What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
I believe that as more “pharmacy grade” printers will come available, more drug manufacturers will come to see the possibilities that 3D printing of pharmaceuticals has for a range of application where the classical way of production (one size fits all) is inadequate.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Increased uptake of innovative pharmaceutical manufacturing, and increased acceptance by healthcare providers

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Regulatory uncertainties might widen the implementation gap, meaning more time is needed to have 3D accepted as a routine production approach of personalised medicines

About Jan Saevels
Jan Saevels is a pharmacist by training. After obtaining a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, he started working for the Association of Pharmacists Belgium (APB). For the last 15 years, Jan is managing APB’s Scientific Department that focusses on the scientific development of Belgian community pharmacists. With a team of 15 pharmacists, the Department offers various products and services that help Belgian pharmacists in their day-to-day operations.

About the Association of Pharmacists Belgium (APB)
APB is the professional body of Belgian Community Pharmacists. Its activities span a wide range of healthcare topics, with a continuous focus on innovation and quality of healthcare products and healthcare services. APB is based in Brussels, Belgium and has a headcount of about 120.

Jan Saevels is speaker at the 2022 edition of the 3D Pharma Printing Conference.

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