Singapore has discovered a way to 3D print personalised pills – a method that is cheaper than existing custom medicine technologies, it says.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore built a software that allows doctors to customise the pill to each patient’s treatment. They can set how frequently the pill releases the drug without complex computations and produce the tablet immediately.

It “can be applied at individualised settings where physicians could produce customised pills on the spot for patients, or in mass production settings by pharmaceutical companies,” said Assistant Professor Soh Siow Ling, who led the research.

The fabrication method can be modified to include multiple types of drugs loaded in the same pill, where each drug can be customised to release at different rates.

The method uses a commercially available 3D printer, which allows pills to be manufactured at “relatively cheap” costs, compared to conventional production methods, NUS said in a statement.

Existing methods to provide slow-release drugs are less accurate. For instance, the medicine is released at undesirable dosage or intervals, and the tablet breaks down quickly in the body. The new method solves this by placing the drug in a protective casing with one open face, slowing down the breakdown process.

Image by National University of Singapore, Faculty of Engineering