The research into the 3D printer starts with a medicine against cardiac arrhythmia in children. A logical choice, says hospital pharmacist Liesbeth Ruijgrok. The dosage of this medicine is very precise. The existing tablets are 50 milligrams, while a child often only needs 2 or 3 milligrams. It’s not easy to break the tablets, so now we work with a liquid solution that the parents drip into the child’s mouth.’ That solution, however, is not ideal. The liquid tastes foul and a mistake with the dosage is easily made.
Personalized 3D printed tablets could be a solution. Ruijgrok is investigating this together with TNO and the Department of Paediatric Cardiology. A printer like this can be used to make a personalized pill for each child. ‘You enter the dose a child needs into the computer and the 3D printer turns it into very precise tablets. These can be round tablets, but also strings, hearts or gummy bears. We can also mask the taste and adjust the dose very easily’, explains Ruijgrok.
It will be another year before the first 3D printed pills will be used in patients. First, Ruijgrok and her colleagues want to find out how the printer works, whether the pills in the body do the same as the infusion fluid, meet the quality requirements, and find out what children and their parents think of them.
According to Ruijgrok, expectations of the 3D printer for medication are high. ‘It’s a hot topic. We are now starting with medications for children, but many more applications are possible. For example, think of a ‘polypill’, which contains several medications at once. That could be very practical for the elderly. Or a printing technique in which the core of the pill is hard and the outside is soft, so that the medicine is released into the body in a very regulated manner.