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Medicine Technology

Researchers Discover Breakthrough Drug Delivery Method By Changing Shape of Pill 66

ErnieKey writes: Researchers at the UCL School of Pharmacy, University College London have found a way to change the rate of dissolution within medication via a 3D printing method. Researchers used MakerBot's water- soluble filament, cut it into tiny pieces and mixed in acetaminophen. They then used the Filabot extruder to extrude a drug infused filament. With this filament they printed odd shaped pills and tested them to see what effect different shapes had on the speed at which they dissolved. What they concluded was that these odd shaped pills allowed for different rates of absorption, enabling custom medications for patients.
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Researchers Discover Breakthrough Drug Delivery Method By Changing Shape of Pill

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2015 @11:39AM (#49658215)

    Surface area to volume ratio found to affect rate of dissolution, details at 11.

    • Indeed, other than the words '3D printing', why is this news? It's not exactly rocket science.

      ...ok, well, it kinda is []

      • even rockets use this tech! changing the shape of solid rocket boosters inner surface changes the rate of burn.
      • Because before 3D printing this couldn't be done - now could it? At least AFAIK.

        Yes people hype 3D printing to death but 3D printing is still a useful tooll.

        • The experiments were made simpler with 3D printing, it allowed different shapes to be produced easily. But making pills in different shapes is quite doable without a 3D printer, and surface area to volume has been known to affect dissolution rate since... I don't know, the sixteenth century? Maybe earlier. Just look at the pill all the way to the right. It's shaped like a Life Saver candy. That candy got its distinctive shape from limitations on the equipment which produced it - a pharmaceutical pill-makin
          • Yes surface area to volume has been understood - but having the technology to make the surface area to volume just so for a person with physical characteristics (gender, age, weight, x, y ,z) with condition x as opposed to condition y has not existed.

            You make a pill and it takes t amount of time to dissolve for 95% of the population. But for some people it would dissolve much quicker and others much longer.

            Of course I didn't read the f'ing article but being able to further fine tune the delivery of medi

    • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @11:51AM (#49658277)

      But it's with a 3-D printer! That makes it novel and non-obvious, right? The patent system couldn't be wrong...

    • Surface area to volume ratio found to affect rate of dissolution, details at 11.

      I read the article hoping it was beyond High School basics. But nope, I wouldn't want my name on it.

      Wonder who paid for this "research", as it would of been cheaper to of just read Wikipedia []

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Exactly, I am afraid that if "researchers" that should know this basic property are just now discovering it.... IT means the value of an advanced degree is complete and utter rubbish.

    • by MikeKD ( 549924 )
      Undoing mod mistake.
    • Surface area to volume ratio found to affect rate of dissolution, details at 11.

      Unfortunately it's not nearly that simple. If pills were simply dropped into a static solution and allowed to dissolve, you'd be right. The problem is that mechanical mixing occurs in the stomach, something which varies a lot from individual to individual.

      Pharmaceutical companies work very hard to try to make generic pill formats that ensure consistent delivery. They test the dissolution rates [] in stirred beakers and try to correlate those results to delivery rates in animal models and human testing. Even if

  • Pharmacist here (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 10, 2015 @11:41AM (#49658225)

    Shape and rate of dissolution are already well known, and heavily used.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @11:48AM (#49658255) Journal

    Fred or Dino?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This raises the question of why nobody currently offers a slow-release alalgesic coated with a layer of fast-acting analgesic. Seems like that would be just the thing for immediate relief without having to keep popping pills.

    • by spasm ( 79260 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @12:49PM (#49658557) Homepage

      That's how most of the '-contin' formulations work (eg oxycontin). You make tiny pellets of the analgesic, add a thin layer of wax to some, a thicker layer to some, a thicker yet layer to some, then make up a pill containing some pellets with no coating, and some with each of the increasingly thicker layers of wax. When you swallow the pill, the stuff with no layer goes into immediate effect (so you get fast acting relief). The acid in your stomach starts dissolving the wax around the rest, with the different thicknesses of wax acting to give a continuous release of the remaining analgesic. Different formulations have differing amounts of the initial uncoated analgesic.

      • This actually sounds a lot cheaper and more practical than 3D printing a billion pills.
        • by spasm ( 79260 )

          And we've been doing it since at least the 1940s with everything from pharmaceuticals to fertilizer and hence it's extremely well developed and cheap technology.

  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @11:52AM (#49658283)
    Ironically, it is a Jagged Little Pill.
  • by jargonburn ( 1950578 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @12:14PM (#49658381)
    Different shapes affect the rate of dissolution?? It's almost like changing the surface area actually DOES something!

    Didn't actually RTFA, though, so my sarcasm may be unwarranted. You have been warned! :-)

  • those pyramid shaped pills . Almost as bad as the suppositories.
  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @12:30PM (#49658461) Journal

    The study is an attempt to find correlation between the surface area and dissolution rate.... Every year there are are trillions of pills manufactured pharmaceutical companies and there are many parameters that are being tested, all branch of one of the pharmacology and it is called pharmaceutics, [] . You can bet that in pharmaceutical manufacturing is super efficient and yes, for the manufacturing of this kind of scale, there is always a demand for improvement and innovations. Happy to encourage scientific research in academia, but announcing 3D printed pills a breakthrough is a bit of exaggeration, but that is not to say that there is no practical application to it.

    Custom 3D sculpturing is a blast from 17th and 18th century, when pharmacists ground and mixed medications and it was a manual process. Article is clear that 3D printing may allow to customize absorption rate... This needs to be approved by FDA, at least in USA, before the regular patient can acquire it.

    That being said, this will be just one of many medication delivery methods competing with already established methods and curious reader can, again, get a glimpse to the methods here: []

  • Futurama (Score:5, Funny)

    by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Sunday May 10, 2015 @12:47PM (#49658545)

    - I can't swallow that!
    - Well then good news! It's a suppository!

  • Is the Maker Bot water-soluble filament safe to digest? I'd google it to find out, but I prefer the human contact of a question answered.

    • Is the Maker Bot water-soluble filament safe to digest? I'd google it to find out, but I prefer the human contact of a question answered.

      I had the same question and I don't mind googling: It appears water-soluble filament is poly vinyl alcohol, which is reasonably safe [] to ingest in small amounts. From the linked abstract: " A critical evaluation of the existing information on PVA supports its safety for use as a coating agent for pharmaceutical and dietary supplement products."

  • Too bad it's a stupid idea, it's defeated if someone bites into the pill or crushes them, just like my mother does, because they can't swallow all those big pills.
  • Apple got a patent on making their product a certain shape (rounded corners).

    Big pharma didn't want to miss out on the action, but they sure took their time to catch up.

  • Did they try all the shapes from Lucky Charms? I want to know which marshmallow is going to give me the best delivery of time-release aspirin.

  • So they probably used paracetemol.

  • Which shape will get me highest the fastest? That's what I expect will be the most common question asked.

    I see many possible problems with this, getting it FDA approved is just one of them. What will prevent someone from printing a hollow pill and stealing what what supposed to go in the middle to sell on the black market? The pills could be weighed but the pills could be filled with something of equal mass like sugar, sand, or something not so inert.

    Will these pills be printed at the pharmacy? I seem t

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