3D Printed Punctal Plugs for Controlled Ocular Drug Delivery

Dry eye disease is a common ocular disorder that is characterised by tear deficiency or excessive tear evaporation. Current treatment involves the use of eye drops; however, therapeutic efficacy is limited because of poor ocular bioavailability of topically applied formulations. In this study, digital light processing (DLP) 3D printing was employed to develop dexamethasone-loaded punctal plugs.

Punctal plugs with different drug loadings were fabricated using polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) and polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400) to create a semi-interpenetrating network (semi-IPN). Drug-loaded punctal plugs were characterised in terms of physical characteristics (XRD and DSC), potential drug-photopolymer interactions (FTIR), drug release profile, and cytocompatibility. In vitro release kinetics of the punctal plugs were evaluated using an in-house flow rig model that mimics the subconjunctival space.

The results showed sustained release of dexamethasone for up to 7 days from punctal plugs made with 20% w/w PEG 400 and 80% w/w PEGDA, while punctal plugs made with 100% PEGDA exhibited prolonged releases for more than 21 days. Herein, our study demonstrates that DLP 3D printing represents a potential manufacturing platform for fabricating personalised drug-loaded punctal plugs with extended release characteristics for ocular administration.

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Article information: Xu, X.; Awwad, S.; Diaz-Gomez, L.; Alvarez-Lorenzo, C.; Brocchini, S.; Gaisford, S.; Goyanes, A.; Basit, A.W. 3D Printed Punctal Plugs for Controlled Ocular Drug Delivery. Pharmaceutics 202113, 1421. https://doi.org/10.3390/pharmaceutics13091421

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