A Custom Pill for Every Patient: Transforming Personalized Medicine with 3D Printing

Image: Hands holding and pouring pills from a bottle

When doctors write prescriptions for patients, typically they must select from preset amounts of individual medications. For patients dealing with complex medical conditions requiring multiple medications, that can be a problem. 

Consider this scenario: 

  • Medication A: comes in 10mg tablets, patient needs 20mg daily
  • Medication B: comes in 50mg tablets, patient needs 75mg every other day
  • Medication C: comes in 100mg and 200mg tablets, patient needs 125mg daily

The patient is instructed to consume two tablets of Medication A daily, meticulously split tablets of Medication B along the score mark to take one and a half tablets every alternate day. Then take one pill of Medication C daily.

The doctor has adjusted the dosage to the nearest available strength, hoping it will be effective. This complex medication schedule is not only challenging for the patient to adhere to, but it also doesn't ideally align with their body size, genetic makeup, and specific disease characteristics.

In a hospital, pharmacists can make more specialized formulations aligned to specific patient needs, which can then be delivered through an IV. But, with most at-home medications taken orally in pill form, customization just isn’t practical.   

What if Medication A, B and C could be formulated into one pill for the patient? May seem far into the future but we are closer than you think.

Image: Pipettes with overlaid text

Changing the Game With 3D Printing

Battelle collaborated with a precision drug delivery company to create a groundbreaking 3D printing technology that is transforming how traditional medicines are formulated, manufactured, distributed, and administered.

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a supporting technology for customized drugs and personalized medicine. Instead of mass-producing medicines in limited dosages and formats, manufacturers will be able to offer a wider range of product options for patients and providers.

Examples might include:

  • Non-standard dosages needed by certain patient groups (e.g., a 12.5 mg version of a pill commonly available in 10 mg and 15 mg versions, or step-down dosages for a tapering protocol)
  • Combination therapies to reduce the number of pills patients need to take, such as a single pill that combines a heart medicine and blood pressure medicine commonly prescribed together. It also makes smaller production runs cost effective, without extensive (and expensive) shutdowns to retool production lines.
  • Medications could be easily customized with non-standard dosages or form factors for small patient groups or even individual patients
  • Drugs could be printed locally on demand to ease supply chain issues and increase availability 
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturers could reduce costs and timelines for clinical trials and manufacturing and get drugs into the hands of patients faster.  



How the Technology Works

3D printing enables a degree of flexibility and responsiveness not possible with traditional manufacturing methods. Because drugs are laid down directly in their blister packages, 3D printing eliminates the need for separate packaging lines and streamlines the entire manufacturing process.

This not only reduces packaging waste but also eliminates the need for extra resources for repackaging.

Precise amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients are dispensed in layers, then binder-jetted together to form custom tablets layer by layer, until the final dosage form is produced in a single tablet. Once formed, those tablets are then dried, sealed, and labeled.

Beyond the technical function of the system, designing with real-world use in mind was essential. Our team designed the system in alignment with stringent pharmaceutical manufacturing regulations to maintain a sterile environment and eliminate cross-contamination of potent compounds. Each custom tablet can be created in minutes, ensuring the technology is scalable and can manage commercial volumes.

What is Personalized Medicine?

Personalized medicine (also known as precision medicine), is an innovative approach to health care that accounts for individual genetic profiles during diagnosis and treatment. Instead of a "one size fits all" approach, genomic medicine is used to tailor medical treatments that are specialized to the individual patient's genes, environment and lifestyle.

Types of Personalized Medicine

Prominent and upcoming types of personalized medicine include targeted drugs and immunotherapy, often used for treatment of breast cancer and other genetic diseases. It also includes custom pills, with precise doses and multiple medication combined in a single dose.

What's Next for Personalized Medicine

The future is bright for personalized medicine. The ability to formulate precise dosages and combinations of medications into a single pill not only simplifies medication schedules for patients but also aligns more closely with their unique needs.

As the costs for the technology come down, it will be possible to create individual batches for specific patients with customized dosages or combinations, depending on patient needs.

Our Medical Device Solutions team is at the forefront of drug delivery advancements, committed to creating solutions that improve patient outcomes and well-being. As we continue to innovate, we look forward to unlocking new possibilities in treatment and care.

Featured Expert

Image: Battelle expert Steve Risser

Steve Risser, Ph.D.

Senior Research Leader


Steve Risser is always working to make products stronger, smaller, safer or more functional. Over his 30-year career in materials science, he has been instrumental in the development of dozens of innovations across a diverse range of industries.

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Explore Drug Delivery
May 28, 2024
Steve Risser, Ph.D.
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins

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