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Tailored Tablets

By: Azia Tariq, Staff Editor

Truly personalized medication is the goal of researchers in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries. For example, when a patient requires a precise dose that is not manufactured as a tablet, the tablet will be broken up in order to deliver the dose as close as possible. Not only is the process inaccurate, some tablets cannot be tampered with, due to the stability and efficacy of the active ingredient, and also due to possible harm it may cause the patient.1 Tablets that are scored may be safe, but time-release formulations and some coated pills may prove difficult or harmful. How can these types of formulations be accurately delivered to a patient?

The answer to this common medical obstacle is a prototype system that uses a mathematical formula and inkjet technology to draft precise medication dosages for specific patients. These tailored dosages are created as either tablets or melted formulations via the prototype machine, which is approximately the size of a large laser printer, and provides a methodical option for reducing the need of splitting medication manually for ideal doses.2

Commercializing the prototype could revolutionize the way we administer medicine. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers make a few dose levels based on clinical studies that examine the average recommended dose. “Many drugs have a minimum effective level, so you need to meet that, and many of them have a toxic level. The closer you get to it, the more side effects there are.” explain both Gintaras Reklaitis of Purdue University and Kathryn Gedge, a professor of chemical engineering.3 Incorporating the device in the process of creating medication enables medical personnel to address this and minimize potential side effects from a mistaken higher dose.

The procedure for using the prototype machine has been established. First, blood samples are drawn from the patient after a small quantity of the drug has been administered. Data from those samples are then combined with information from clinical studies of a larger number of patients which would then be utilized in mathematical models to determine the proper dose for a particular patient.4 A portable technology then dissolves or melts the drugs with polymers and uses drop-on-demand inkjet printing technology to deposit exact quantities of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) directly onto edible substrates, also known as tablet molds and films. The use of this technology allows for control over the material properties, drop size, drop dynamics, and drug solid state form.2

Reklatis, who is working with a team of researchers from Purdue, says “We envision that in its final form the printing will be done in an automated fashion. The pharmacist could key in the dose, the machine prints 20 tablets, and off you go.”3

The team of researchers has built a prototype and is now working towards the commercialization of the device with funding by the National Science Foundation. Though the technology has only recently been implemented and is only in its infant stage, it could drastically alter how medicine is proffered. Such a technological advance can be a solution to the critical issue of splitting difficult formulations and can be beneficial in the creation of high-potency drug forms, combination drugs with multiple APIs, or individualized medicinal products tailored to a specific patient.2 With the introduction of new technology, however, there is the possibility of backlash and a refusal to adapt to newer methods over tried and tested ones. Pharmacists and healthcare providers would need to be convinced that there is a legitimate demand for the device. Cost could be an additional factor that could hinder the device’s commercialization and widespread use in pharmacies in the near future.



  1. Van Riet-Nales DA, Doeve ME, Nicia AE, Teerenstra S, Notenboom K, Hekster YA, van den Bemt BJ. The accuracy, precision and sustainability of different techniques for tablet subdivision: breaking by hand and the use of tablet splitters or a kitchen knife. Published May 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24561329. Accessed June 2014.
  2. Hirshfield L, Giridhar A, Taylor LS, Harris MT, Reklaitis GV. Dropwise additive manufacturing of pharmaceutical products for solvent-based dosage forms. Updated February 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24311373. Accessed June 2014.
  3. Venere, E. System ‘prints’ precise drug dosages tailored for patients. Published January 2014 http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/Q2/system-prints-precise-drug-dosages-tailored-for-patients.html. Accessed June 2014 .
  4. MediLexicon International. System ‘prints’ precise drug dosages tailored for patients. Published May 2013. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/276923.php. Accessed June 2014.

[pubmed_related keyword1=”custom” keyword2=”medication” keyword3=”formulation”]

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