The FDA approved the first 3D printed pill back in August this year and the manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, is currently working on three additional products in its pipeline. Mainstream 3D prinitng can have a significant impact on big pharma’s business model, changing the economies of scale to cost-efficient drug production.
The Ohio based company is the first in the world to use 3D printing for the development and manufacturing of prescription drugs. Spritam, the 3D printed pill the FDA approved, is prescribed to adults and children with epilepsy for the treatment of sudden on-set seizures. This is the same anti-epileptic drug as Levetiracetam or Keppra. It utilizes a proprietary ZipDose® Technology that uses three-dimensional printing to produce a porous formulation which disintegrates rapidly with a sip of liquid. The company developed its platform from 3D printing technology that originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.).
The company is targeting highly prescribed, high-dose products in order to capture a sizable share of the market. Right now, the rest of the drug makers use a standard size dose and patients often have to split pills for the right dosage. Aprecia’s 3D printing technology allows for layers of the medication to be packaged better and in more precise doses.
Bio printing has a lot of promise to revolutionize medicine as we know it. It has already had some recent success. Last year, for example, CNN reported that a two-year-old girl in Illinois, born without a trachea, received a windpipe built with her own stem cells.
The U.S. government has also funded a university-led research project which prints tissue samples designed to mimic the functions of the heart, liver, lungs, and other organs. The samples are placed on a microchip and connected with a blood substitute to keep the cells alive, thus allowing doctors to test specific treatments and monitor their effectiveness.
Spritam is the most high-impact breakthrough yet. According to its manufacturer, there are close to three million epilepsy patients in the United States, with approximately 460,000 of those cases occurring in children. Children and older patients who report difficulty swallowing can benefit from this new fast-melt technology the most.