Scientists Want 3D Printers to Make Your Prescriptions On-Demand


Anyone who has had a serious medical incident, or a chronic condition for that matter, knows what it’s like to juggle the pharmaceutical side of treating disease.

The traditional model of pharmacy visits, bottles upon bottles of pills, and self-tracking of multiple dosages is no cakewalk and poses extraordinary challenges for those – like the elderly – who may lack access to transportation or suffer from memory problems.

Well, it seems additive manufacturing has found this to be another application it can save from itself. Researchers are studying new ways to use 3D printing to change the prescription game, one of which would allow for on-demand “micro-manufacturing” at your local pharmacy.

According to Gizmodo, pharmacists would be able to customize dosages, rather than work around the standard dose that the manufacturers provide, and also could print multiple pills onto one dosing mechanism.

University of Michigan scientists have been researching a method that prints precise doses on surfaces as unique as Listerine breath strips. One of the lead researchers used his background in electronics manufacturing to develop a process that heats up chemicals into vapors that are then used as coatings for the drugs. They say the technique offers the possibility of creating new drugs that don’t currently work within the confines of standard pharmaceutical processing.

Other groups, such as those at MIT, hope to create the Keurig of pharmaceuticals that would make it possible for druggists – or maybe someday even patients – to assemble drug dosages from pre-packaged components.

That last part – making dosing DIY for the at-home user – is likely a long way off, and for good reason. Mistakes or overdoses could be a catastrophic result of this more hands-on technology, so best to keep this accessible to researchers and pharmacists until they can figure out how to make it foolproof.

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