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Making pills easier to swallow

Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan.Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at UCLan.
Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan.Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at UCLan.

Researchers in Preston reckon they have the right prescription for ensuring children get their medicines in precisely the correct dose.

Current methods of administer medication to children poses challenges, mainly because adult size tablets usually have to be split, so the dose isn’t always correct, or if medicine is used it has to have additives to make it palatable.

Now though technology is being trialled to see if tablets can be ”printed” to specific needs.

Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan, senior lecturer in pharmaceutics at UCLan,(inset) said: “We were looking for a low cost and effective method to digitize one of the most commonly used dosage forms – tablets. We have spent thousands of hours in the laboratories to adapt pharmaceutical grade materials to work on a benchtop 3D printer, so we can produce a personalised dose at a fraction of the size and the cost of regular tablet manufacturing facilities.

“This can transform the way tablets are made and tailored to suit an individual patient.”

3D printed tablets could be a suitable alternative for children to take when required and the second part of the research aims to test the placebos for acceptability to children.

co-director at NIHR Alder Hey Clinical Research Facility for Experimental Medicine Professor Matthew Peak said: “The majority of medicines available to children have not been designed with children in mind or indeed tested in clinical trials involving children.”

Researchers have printed three different size tablets 6mm, 8mm and 10mm, which they plan to give to children both healthy children and NHS patients.

They will make detailed observations of the youngsters as they swallow the placebo tablets in a specialist clinical research facility at Alder Hey and use validated methods to assess acceptability.

Prof Peak added: “Children and young people have increasingly expressed their preference for tablets as the best formulation for them to take medicines.

“Despite this expressed need, the pharmaceutical industry knows little about which size and shape of tablets are most acceptable to children and young people of different ages.”

He said that research into 3D printing of tablets proves that it is possible to develop medicines which are age appropriate and with excellent dose precision for children.

The professor added: “Our current studies are establishing the optimal size of tablets for children, ensuring that pharmaceutical partners can formulate medicines in the most appropriate and acceptable form for children; and in future use 3D printing technology to have on-demand, customised doses of tablets.”

•Do you have problems giving medication to your children?