Coming Soon: Your Medication Will be Printed Out Like a Document!

Although it may be several years down the road, instead of taking multiple pills, what do you think about combining them into a single printed medication dose?


(Image: iStock/JPC-PROD)


The technique, which was developed at the University of Michigan, can print multiple medications into a single dose on a dissolvable strip, microneedle patch, or another dosing device. The researchers say it could make life easier for patients who must now take multiple medications every day. The work could also accelerate drug development.

A new study led by Max Shtein, professor of materials science and engineering, and Olga Shalev, a recent graduate who worked on the project while a doctoral student in the same department, showed that the pure printed medication can destroy cultured cancer cells in the lab as effectively as medication delivered by traditional means, which rely on chemical solvents to enable the cells to absorb the medication. Their study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers adapted the technology from electronics manufacturing called “organic vapor-jet printing.” The way it works is the active pharmaceutical ingredient of a medicine is heated, evaporated, and then combined with an inert gas such as nitrogen. The vaporized medicine and gas combination are then placed into a device that evenly sprays the combination onto a cool inanimate surface—similar to spray painting. The medication condenses and an ultrathin film is left with the “print” of the medication. This was done to objects such as a dissolvable strip (like your Listerine breathe strips) and Tegaderm bandages.

(Nurse Alice on Fox News Happening Now talking about Printed Medications. YouTube)


This technology could improve compliance rates of people taking their medications, improve the quality of life, and customize the way we deliver medication and allow medications to truly be delivered in doses most suitable for the patient. Currently, many pills come in a standardized dose, for example in 5, 10, and 20 mg of a said medication. With vapor jet printing there is an opportunity to customize the dose and perhaps give 7.5 or 12mg of that same medication if more appropriate based on the patient’s size and condition. There may be times when a smaller person doesn’t need as much medication as a larger person but because of how current medication is packaged there isn’t an opportunity to customize the dose. This technology also has implications for speeding up clinical trials and getting more effective medications to patients sooner as these medications are dissolved and absorbed differently than traditional pills.

When I spoke to Dr. Max Stein, lead researcher and an associate professor at the University of Michigan in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, he mentioned that this technology is promising and even with the rigorous process of getting FDA approved, he’s optimistic that we could see the likes of this technology as soon as five years from now.

What do you think? Would you be interested in taking multiple medications in one dose? What questions do you have about printed meds? Post your comments and questions below and/or on social media including #AskNurseAlice and I’d be happy to answer them.