GSK, academics team to print APIs onto tablets

GlaxoSmithKline, the University of Leeds, and Durham University are at the early stages of a new drug tablet production method: printing active pharmaceutical ingredients onto tablets.

The properties of APIs can prove challenging, however. Some active ingredients dissolve readily in liquid and will behave like an ink, so printing is straightforward. But APIs that don't dissolve leave drug particles suspended in liquid, which complicates the printing process. Variable API concentrations, to achieve specific dosage levels, are another complicating factor.

Medicine droplets are large compared with ink. The researchers are working to determine how many drops each tablet can hold and how to increase API levels within a drop. Such printing mechanics as nozzle shape and size and the means of pumping the suspension through the printing equipment are also being studied.

The troika is addressing the API printing complications in an attempt to make the process viable for some 40 percent of the medicines available in tablet form, a long way from the current 0.5 percent for which the technology is a match.

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