Assessment of different polymers and drug loads for fused deposition modeling of drug loaded implants

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The 3D printing technique of fused deposition modeling® (FDM) has lately come into focus as a potential fabrication technique for pharmaceutical dosage forms and medical devices that allows the preparation of delivery systems with nearly any shape. This is particular promising for implants administered at application sites with a high anatomical variability where an individual shape adaption appears reasonable. In this work different polymers (Eudragit®RS, polycaprolactone (PCL), poly(L-lactide) (PLLA) and ethyl cellulose (EC)) were evaluated with respect to their suitability for FDM of drug loaded implants and their drug release behaviour was evaluated. The fluorescent dye quinine was used as a model drug to visualize drug distribution in filaments and implants. Quinine loaded filaments were produced by solvent casting and subsequent hot melt extrusion (HME) and model implants were printed as hollow cylinders using a standard FDM printer. Parameters were found at which model implants (hollow cylinders, outer diameter 4–5 mm, height 3 mm) could be produced from all tested polymers. The drug release which was examined by incubation of the printed implants in phosphate buffered saline solution (PBS) pH 7.4 was highly dependent on the used polymer. The fastest relative drug release of approximately 76% in 51 days was observed for PCL and the lowest for Eudragit® RS and EC with less than 5% of quinine release in 78 and 100 days, respectively. For PCL further filaments were prepared with different quinine loads ranging from 2.5% to 25% and thermal analysis proved the presence of a solid dispersion of quinine in the polymer for all tested concentrations. Increasing the drug load also increased the overall percentage of drug released to the medium since nearly the same absolute amount of quinine remained trapped in PCL at the end of drug release studies. This knowledge is valuable for future developments of printed implants with a desired drug release profile that might be controlled by the choice of the polymer and the drug load.

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