It turns out that we may be able to have a device that can be a "pharmacy on demand" in the future. Scientists have created a new gadget that can be reconfigured to produce a variety of drugs on demand.

Traditional drug manufacturing, which is known as "batch processing," can actually take weeks or months. Ingredients are synthesized in chemical manufacturing plants and are then shipped to other sites to be converted into a form that can then be given to patients. However, because of the different components of this process, the time that it takes for drugs to reach the market can be slow.

In fact, it's because of this that many pharmaceutical companies are looking into developing a "flow process," which is a continuous process that's all done in one location. Now, scientists may have developed a new device in order to help with this goal.

"Think of this as an energy backup for pharmaceutical manufacturing," said Allan Myerson, a MIT professor of the practice in the Department of Chemical Engineering. "The purpose is not to replace traditional manufacturing; it's to provide an alternative for these special situations."

In this case, the scientists created a much smaller and transportable device. The new system can actually produce four drugs formulated as solutions or suspensions. These include Benadryl, lidocaine, Valium and Prozac. In all, the machine can manufacture about 1,000 doses of a given substance in just 24 hours.

"In many cases we were developing synthesis of targets that had never been done in a continuous flow pattern," said Timothy Jamison, one of the researchers. "That presents a lot of challenges even if there is a good precedent from the batch perspective. We also recognize it as an opportunity where, because of some of the phenomena that one can leverage in [a flow-based system], you can make molecules differently."

The new device could be useful in areas where there are few pharmaceutical storage facilities. This is largely because with the new device, you can produce drugs on demand.

"The idea here is you make what you need, and you make a simple dosage form, because they're going to be taken on demand," Myerson said. "The dosages don't have to have long-term stability. People line up, you make it, and they take it."

The findings were published in the April 1 issue of the journal Science.