Pharmaceutics is a pharmacy discipline that encompasses the procedure of creating safe and effective medications patients can use. It’s also called “the science of dosage form design” for obvious reasons. For one, the process includes old, approved drugs and new chemical entity (NCE), i.e., an ion or molecule responsible for the actions of the drug substance. Furthermore, it deals with the amounts needed to achieve therapeutic effects, i.e., formulating a substance to a correct dosage form. As you can guess, technology is pivotal to improving the whole procedure so let’s define pharmaceutical technology.
What is pharmaceutical technology?
Pharmaceutical technology, also known as PharmTech, represents the application of scientific knowledge or knowledge domain and/or various technologies to pharmacology, pharmacy, and the pharmaceutical industry.
Like pharmaceutics, it deals with improving the procedure of compounding and dosage of drugs, NCEs, and preparation.
Additionally, it’s instrumental in the measurement, evaluation, and optimization of values and data such as bioavailability, fabric crystallinity, bulk density, hygroscopicity, thermal properties, solubilization, stability analysis, pKa determination, etc.
PharmTech also deals with methods, techniques, devices, and instruments required to develop, manufacture, distribute (to location), store, and dispense drugs. Additionally, it works hand in hand with medical technology. After all, it concerns itself with how the aforementioned drugs can be used in the screening, diagnostics, diagnosis, and treatment of the patients.
Examples of pharmaceutical technology
Now that you understand the term, here are some notable examples of pharmaceutical technology:
Taking drugs without supervision and in-person visits to the doctor or pharmacy in person are slowly going out of style. This is largely due to the combination of smart devices, widespread Internet connectivity, streamlined healthcare applications, and a host of digital services and products.
One example is healthcare apps, which, besides showing data at any given moment, can put them in touch with AI chatbots, doctors, nurses, and medicine manufacturers.
Additionally, apps can tell you exactly which drug to take, in which doses, when, and how often. Apps or services can also show a map of pharmacies that have a drug in stock, free health care clinics, or nearest hospitals compatible with their insurance.
To sum it up pharmaceutical and communication technologies helped pharmaceutics become fully digital. It has united manufacturing plants and pharmacies, which then work with medical professionals, insurance agencies, financial institutions, and, finally, patients.
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning
If you know how technology is replacing jobs, you realize machine learning and Artificial Intelligence excel at repetitive tasks that follow predictable patterns. Therefore, they’re ideal candidates for any type of data entry and management, especially if it’s sensitive, confidential, comprehensive, or needs on-demand access independent of location.
Experts can train it to spot irregularities, log errors, analyze inefficiencies, and prevent malpractice. It’s also perfect for planning and optimizing requests, consultations, and appointments, conducting clinical trials and research, or giving diagnoses and drug prescriptions. It’s especially useful if there’s a risk of clashes or adverse effects humans would fail to notice.
3D printing drugs on the spot or years upfront is cost-effective, prevents fraudulent activities, and eliminates transportation or inventory. FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) already approved the first-ever 3D-printed drug, named Spritam, for treating epilepsy in 2015. Additionally, M3dimakertm, the world’s first personal drug 3D printer, was developed in 2020.
Pharmaceutical IoT devices
The pharmaceutical industry is starting to use IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as microchips, RFID, and NFC chips frequently. They help ensure consistency with machinery, personnel, products, and transportation in the supply chain. Another example is wearables that track pulse, heart rhythm, blood pressure, or blood oxygen.
Did you also know that the FDA approved inserting tiny sensors into medications, which patients then digest? The sensor monitors the drug’s effects and either stores it or communicates with the patient and/or the professionals in real-time. Once we master nanotechnology, such devices can remain in the body for years – even indefinitely.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
The application of VR and AR in pharmaceutics will revolutionize the way patients feel and see the world. Obvious examples include creating environments to facilitate communication or treatments for psychological conditions, chronic pain, or palliative care. These environments are also exceptional at providing training to medical and pharmaceutical professionals.
Applications of pharmaceutical technology
Let us now dive into areas in which pharmaceutical technology benefits immensely. These are the applications of pharmaceutical technology:
Cost reduction and commercialization
Bringing a drug to market can cost over $2 billion and unfortunately, 33%-40% of pharmaceutical products fail. Luckily, the examples above, particularly 3D printing, AI, machine learning, data analysis, and automation can drastically reduce the cost.
These technologies also help optimize the bureaucracy involved in applying for patents, clinical trials, trademarks, permits, storage, shipping, administering, etc. People benefit too, since getting informed, giving consent, filling out insurance forms, signing up for medical trials, and acquiring experimental drugs is no longer a lengthy process that can cost lives.
Ethics and safety
Clinical tests on animals and humans are unethical. Sadly, we had no choice. That won’t be the problem when we fully introduce the “organs on chips” or “silico trials” technology, though. This full-fledged alternative uses chips and complex mathematics to simulate various bodily functions.
For example, it can calculate circulation, electrolytes, hydration, hormones, body fluids, infections, temperature, etc. Then, it can predict how a medication, intervention, or specific product fits into equations and variables, i.e., how it would affect the body.
Another concept uses Artificial Intelligence to create a digital genetic twin of a patient. It can then, aided by cloud computing and a massive knowledge database, run thousands of scenarios. Even better, it learns from every outcome until it provides the best course of action. Both pharmaceutical technologies save time, and resources, and most importantly, keep us and animals safe.
Incentives, privacy, transparency
If we apply blockchain technology to pharmaceutics successfully, the advancements will go through the roof. For example, intellectual property will remain valid, but the owners won’t need millions or billions to start.
People worldwide can join the platform and provide resources and knowledge to drive research and development forward in exchange for a share or payment. Additionally, each contributor can easily be tracked, verified, and linked to their contribution, but only with consent. Blockchain can apply to the pharmaceutical supply chain too, which can prevent common scamming, counterfeiting, or abuse.
Comparing different drug delivery technologies
There are many types of pharmaceutical technologies available today. Below is a table comparing different drug delivery technologies:
|Solid Oral Dosage
|Medicine is a solid state that can be taken orally
|Much more convenient and easy to administer
|Tablets such as Aspirin, Paracetamol, etc.
|Injectable Drug Delivery
|Medicine that needs to be injected into the system
|Invasive and requires a healthcare professional’s oversight
|Insulin, vaccines, etc.
|Drugs that can be applied over the skin
|Non-invasive and slow-acting
|Not that effective
|Nicotine patches, gels, etc
|Oral medicine with a delayed reaction time
|Fast-acting, lower side effects
|Costly, complex, and can be abused
|OxyContin, Concerta, etc.
|Use of nanoparticles
|Targeted delivery, is much more effective
|Can be toxic, strict regulations
|Abraxane or Doxorubicin loaded particles
|Tailor-made medicine based on individuals
|Very effective, with lower chances of side effects
|No widespread use; costly, harder to develop
|Experimental cancer treatments
Impact of technology on the pharmaceutical industry
We are all aware of how the pharmaceutical industry has changed in recent years, all thanks to technological advancements. The scope of pharmacy has increased several times in the last decade or so, with the global pharmaceutical market estimated to reach nearly $148 billion by the end of 2028.
It is evident that the role that technology plays in the pharmaceutical industry is impactful. But is it all good? Let’s find out the advantages and disadvantages of pharmaceutical technologies:
Advantages of tech in the pharmaceutical industry
- Even the rural areas can benefit from services like e-pharmacy.
- It has revolutionized how patients reach out to doctors and how medicines are prescribed and delivered.
- Services like E-prescription have allowed medicines to be sold online and home-delivered.
- It has also changed the way a pharmacy can verify the legitimacy of a prescription using the E-Verification method.
- It can also prevent substance abuse and help with drug addiction.
- Technology has changed the way we write, verify, and fill prescriptions, streamlining logistics and supply chain management.
- It has also made pharmaceutical information and help more accessible to many more.
Disadvantages of tech in the pharmaceutical industry
- There is a constant risk of data breaches and privacy violations when keeping medical records or other information online.
- A lacking workforce won’t be able to utilize the potential of the technology.
- It can be dangerous in the hands of someone who is untrained, misinformed, or not a healthcare professional.
- Rural areas do not have the same level of access to technology.
- It can cause an increase in the rate of unemployment in the pharmacy sector.
- Overreliance on technology can make doctors inept.
- The associated cost is very high, especially in the earlier stages.
- It lacks funding and has rigid rules and regulations in place.