The use of 3D printer technology to produce medications sounds futuristic. However, it is closer than you may think. This article will help you understand the uses and benefits of this technology and give you an idea of when it may be commercially available.
3D printers can be used to efficiently and safely manufacture medications for consumer use at a reduced cost with less waste.
Spritam (levetiracetam) is the first FDA-approved medication that uses a 3D printer to manufacture.
3D printers have the possibility of improving compliance, effectiveness, and customization of medications.
It is expected that 3D printers may be available in hospitals for the first clinical trial within the next 5 years.
What are the benefits of 3D-printed medications?
One of the benefits is that these medications can be printed (developed) on demand in a matter of seconds, currently 7–17 seconds per pill. This technology will allow pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, and hospitals to develop custom-made pills for patients as needed. 3D technology reduces waste and is cheaper to manufacture small batches of medications giving it a distinct advantage in creating medications to treat rare diseases.
Additionally, 3D printers can manufacture pills with carefully tailored dosages, shapes, and sizes, as well as add flavorings to improve the taste of the medication. It can also produce pills with an improved ability to dissolve when taken. This will allow your body to absorb the medication quicker and more efficiently.
Finally, this technology can be used to improve compliance with medications by reducing the number of doses required and making them easier to swallow. This can be useful when developing medications for children or the elderly that have trouble swallowing.
Are 3D-printed medications safe?
Yes. Numerous biotech and pharmaceutical companies have begun investing money and time into the development of these printers. They have focused on assuring the accuracy and reproducibility of these medications, as well as improving the time required to print a single pill. In addition, any pill developed using this technology will have to undergo testing to ensure that it is safe for public use.
One example is Spritam (levetiracetam), which is the first 3D-printed medication to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. This anti-epileptic drug is available in much higher doses than can be achieved with conventional manufacturing processes. In addition, it rapidly dissolves allowing it to be more effectively absorbed.
How will 3D-printing make things easier?
The main advantage of these printers is that they can create pills at a significantly cheaper rate with less waste. This is particularly helpful in the developmental process of medications. For example, a pharmaceutical company can produce a small batch of an investigational medication for a clinical trial. They can also easily adjust the dose as needed making it more efficient and cheaper to complete these clinical trials.
These printers can also produce on-demand medications that are customized to a patient's specific needs. This can increase the compliance and effectiveness of the medication while still controlling costs. They can even develop specialty shapes, such as starfish and unicorns, to help improve compliance in children.
As stated above, this method reduces waste as it uses only the precise amounts of raw materials which will reduce costs. The technology also improves efficiency and reduces the cost of expensive clinical trials making it easier to develop new medications. Finally, it will also lead to more streamlined supply chains making it more sustainable in the future.
When can we expect to get one?
It is expected that this technology could be available to the public in the next 5–10 years. The UK-based company, FabRx, released the first commercially available 3D printer in April 2020. In February 2020, Merck and Amalgamated Medical Care Management Inc. announced they will be working together to develop 3D technology for use in clinical trials and later, clinical manufacturing.
This interest will only enhance and speed up the process of developing a realistic use in clinical medicine. Some experts suggest that the first 3D printers may be available in hospitals within the next 5 years for the first clinical trial.
The use of 3D printers in the manufacturing of medications is a fascinating and beneficial use of the technology. It has the possibility of improving the compliance, effectiveness, and customization of medications. In addition, it can reduce the cost of the manufacturing process and improve the sustainability of drug development.