Combating the threat of drug shortages; MIT system for on-demand tablet production

The Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a small, portable automated system for on-demand rapid tablet production. The system incorporates a Gamlen D series (PCA-500D) powder compaction analyser to provide the controlled direct compression of material into tablet form.

The Gamlen D series dynamic powder compaction analyzer is an essential tool to understand compaction behaviour, enabling exploration of tabletability, compactability and compressibility profiles.

MIT’s tablet production system complements their previous continuous manufacturing platform for API production and now supports the production of up to 1000 tablets a day.

The on-demand system demonstrates a key step forward in efforts to improve drug supply flexibility.

Drug supply fluctuations are caused by a variety of issues from ad-hoc largescale tender requests to quality issues and demand driven by a disease outbreak.

Most pharmaceutical production sites are relatively small, producing product in batches. Production of a single product is rare and so inevitably, changeover from manufacturing one product to another has to take place; which is time-consuming and often problematic. Therefore the supply chain lacks dynamism in the event of an unexpected shortage.

A compact system, capable of producing pharmaceutical tablets may not only alleviate pressure in the supply chain but also open up opportunities for the economic manufacture of orphan drugs, enabling the wider treatment of rare diseases. With an estimated 5000 diseases worldwide still without treatment, there is considerable opportunity in the market.

It is recognised that the pharmaceutical industry needs to find strategies to deliver drugs when needed, quickly and efficiently and as economically as possible, often in remote geographies that can be significantly impacted by supply chain issues. The work undertaken by Azad et al. at MIT describes a potential solution to enhance access to these needed medicines.

Recommended further reading:

M. Azad, J. Osorio, D. Brancazio, G. Hammersmith, D. Klee, K. Rapp, A. Myerson. 2018. A compact, portable, re-configurable, and automated system for on-demand pharmaceutical tablet manufacturing. International Journal of Pharmaceutics 539, pp 157-164

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