Editors' ChoicePharmaceutical Technology

Inkjet Pharmacy

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Science Translational Medicine  06 Jul 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 90, pp. 90ec105
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002831


Today, the request, “Would you please print out this prescription?” constitutes a pharmacist’s plea for clarification of a physician’s hurried scribble. In the future, however, a patient may use this same question when asking the pharmacist to actually fill that prescription. Sandler et al. show that conventional inkjet printer technology can be used to accurately dispense a specific drug dose onto a printable surface.

In this study, ink cartridges were filled with a drug solution, rather than ink; patterns of the medication were precisely “printed” on a paper-like, biodegradable substrate, which could then be cut out and inserted into capsules. Although a printable drug solution must meet specific solubility, viscosity, and surface tension requirements, good control over the amount of drug deposited on the substrate surface can be achieved as the printer delivers a programmed number of 10-pL droplets. Sandler and colleagues tested this concept by printing three model drugs—acetaminophen, caffeine, and theophylline—onto three substrate surfaces—commercial copy paper, pigment-coated paper, and a poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) film. Although each drug crystallized on the PET surface, only a partial crystallization of caffeine was observed on the coated paper. Therefore, it might be possible to exert control over a drug’s solid-state properties by printing the drug solution on different substrates. This inkjet technique could also be used to apply additional layers of drug coatings.

Although technical and regulatory hurdles remain, this technology may be especially applicable to individualized medicine. In the future, a patient’s genetic profile may be used to predict a specific dose, which could then be dispensed on-demand by an automated system incorporating this inkjet technology.

N. Sandler et al., Inkjet printing of drug substances and use of porous substrates—Towards individualized dosing. J. Pharm. Sci. 100, 3386–3395 (2011).[Abstract]

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