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The First 3D Printed Drug

Don't worry, it's been legally approved

The First 3D Printed Drug

It’s pretty spectacular and it’s entirely true. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just gave the approval for a 3D printed pill.

Obviously, though, and perhaps most importantly, 3D printed pills will help personalized or customized medicine. 

Now it’s not entirely a shock - we’ve pretty much seen it all, from a 3D printed car to a 3D printed heart. We’ve known for a while that 3D printing would have a major impact on the healthcare industry, and this week, it has taken one step further.

The drug, called Spritam, is used to treat several types of seizures from those that suffer epilepsy.

“By combining 3DP technology with a highly-prescribed epilepsy treatment, Spritam is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience,” said Don Wetherhold, the CEO of Aprecia, the pharmaceutical company behind the drug. “This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication.”

3D printed medication means that drugs could be produced everywhere around the world, so people would be much closer to the “printing” than the “production”, which means that the drugs could be distributed more quickly, efficiently, and economically. It also has the potential to impact the job market everywhere.

Actually, 3D printed drugs have a lot of advantages to regularly manufactured ones. It’s much easier to control density of a 3D printed drug, and design how porous it should be - which means that how quickly it dissolves is much for flexible, and therefore, designers can print a pill that can be dissolved with one sip of water. Additionally, they can add more of the active ingredient, all while making the actual pill much smaller. In fact, 3D printed pills can deliver 1,000mg in one small dose.

Obviously, though, and perhaps most importantly, 3D printed pills will help personalized or customized medicine. Doctors could literally customize the drugs to suit the patient's needs, rather than relying on mass-produced pills that have different side effects, and don’t take different conditions or allergies into account. Or, the doctors could simply change the dosage, to the patient's’ needs.

It also has other ramifications. 3D printed medication means that drugs could be produced everywhere around the world, so long as they have access to the printer. And even in places without a printer, they would still be much closer to the “printing” than the “production”, which means that the drugs could be distributed more quickly, efficiently, and economically. It also has the potential to impact the job market everywhere.

“For the last 50 years we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals and for the first time this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient,” Dr. Mohamed Albed Alhnan, who lecturers on pharmaceutics at the University of Central Lancashire, told BBC News.

Hopefully, the first batch of the 3D printed pills will make its way to shelves early 2016.

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