The FDA has been approving a number of 3D-printed medical devices over the past several years. But, as Science Alert recently reported, the very first medication that was created with the technology of 3D printing has been approved for sale starting in the first quarter of 2016.
The 3D printed drug is a form of Spritam, created by a company called Aprecia. Spritam is used to control seizures that occur in people who suffer with epilepsy. The 3D technology comes into play when the powdered version of the medication is printed layer upon layer with liquid droplets. This makes the medication highly disintegratable. That means that the effects of the drug are felt quicker than would ordinarily be the case, something of vital importance when an epilepsy sufferer is beginning to feel the effects of a seizure. The patient is also able to take 1,000 mg of the drug rapidly with just a single sip of water.
3D printing is going to open up entirely new avenues for designer medications, each specifically tailored for the needs of individual patients. Dosages can be tailored and medications can be mixed and matched in a single pill. Pill designers can even play with shapes and composition to tailor how fast the medications are released in the body.
In the future, the idea of a pharmacist mixing up medications may be a thing of the past. Instead, a pharmacy will program a 3D printer, load medications in powdered form, and then produce the number of pills needed for their customers. Designer drugs of these sorts will be more effective and will, in time, lower the costs of medication.