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Researchers develop novel technology for customised tablets

Saturday, May 28, 2016,17:24 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Singapore | Researchers have found a novel way to make personalised medicine cheaper and easier by combining the myriad of pills you need to take for your ailment in just one tablet.

The medication will only need to be taken once a day and the drug will be slowly released throughout the day at different rates to treat the illness. It will also enable doctors to easily make tablets on the spot that are tailored to each patient’s needs, researchers said.

The new method of tablet fabrication designed by Soh Siow Ling and Sun Yajuan from National University of Singapore (NUS) can make customisable pills that release drugs with any desired release profiles. Releasing drugs in a timely manner is important for optimal therapeutic effect in the human body. Different types of clinical circumstances may call for different types of timed release of drugs, researchers said.

While there are some existing tablet-production methods, including three-dimensional (3D) printing, that can allow certain flexibility, they have their limitations – low dosage, release profiles that are non-continuous, or the drugs are released in a large burst in the initial stage, and poor durability of the tablet given its quick breakdown, they said.

These methods are also only able to fabricate tablets that release drugs with a limited type of profiles. For a long time, personalised tablets has been a mere concept as it was far too complex or expensive to be realised, said Soh.

This new tablet fabrication method is a game changer – it is technically simple, relatively inexpensive and versatile, he said. It can be applied at individualised settings where physicians could produce customised pills on the spot for patients, or in mass production settings by pharmaceutical companies, he added.

Instead of manufacturing the drug tablet by printing layer by layer, the drug tablet consists of three distinct components, including a polymer containing the drug in a specifically designed shape that will determine the rate of release of the drug, researchers said.

For example, a 5-prong shape will allow the drug to be released in five pulses over time. By adjusting the shape of the drug-containing polymer, it is thus possible to release drugs at any desired rate, they said. Using this system, a doctor only needs to draw the desired release profile in a computer software to generate a template for making tablets specific to a patient’s treatment, which can then be used to easily produce the desired pills using a 3D printer, researchers said.

The system is easy to use and does not involve any complex mathematical computation whenever a new release profile is needed. The fully customisable system is able to create a template to print tablets for any release profile, they said.

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