3D Pill Printing: Your Prescription Drug is Ready to Be Printed

“Come get your print out!” has taken on a whole new meaning for the pharmaceutical industry over the past year. The FDA has officially given the green light to Aprecia Pharmaceuticals Co. to start “printing” a new epilepsy medication using 3D printing technology. This is the first drug of its kind: The first 3D printed prescription pill ever- and it holds particular promise for Hispanics.

The drug is called SPRITAM (levetiracetan), and is now available for children and adults suffering from epilepsy.

Why SPRITAM pills are easy medication for anyone to take

It is built layer-by-layer using a porous formulation trademarked method called ZipDose Technology. This makes it possible for the pills to disintegrate in the patient’s mouth much easier and with just a sip of water, even in high doses, according to Aprecia’s website.

The rapid dissolve method, aka ZipDose, makes the pills easier to consume, and can be particularly helpful for certain groups including seniors and kids who may have difficulty taking medications.

“Patients and caregivers often have difficulty following a treatment regimen. Whether they are dealing with a swallowing disorder or the daily struggle of getting a child to take his or her medication, adherence can be a challenge,” explains Dr. Marvin H. Rorick III, in one of Aprecia’s press release.

Check out a video showing the ZipDose dissolving method in action here.

Why Hispanics may particularly benefit from 3D printed pills

Another group that may also particularly benefit from the 3D printing of an epilepsy medication, is Hispanics.  

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, seizure disorders are almost twice as common among Hispanics than in non-Hispanics. This is due to the higher number of strokes among Latinos nationwide, as well as a larger number of traumatic brain injuries in Hispanics linked to high-risk occupations such as construction work, according to the foundation.

No more one-size fits all approach for medication

Another benefit of the 3D printing method will be the customization of drugs for specific users- no more one-size-fits all approach. With 3D printing, each dosage can be individually measured.

Down the line, 3D printed drugs could even hold the potential to completely alter the way patients and doctors think about medication. In a 2012 TED Talk, Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow describes a new approach to 3D printing that could potentially enable patients the ability to print prescriptions at home.

3D pill printing could save everyone more time and money

So what does this all mean for the pharmaceutical industry? 3D printing might reduce the overall cost of research and development by lowering the risk of trial failure in coming years.

Despite its reported benefits, there are some groups that question the dangers of 3D pill printing, should the technology make its way into the wrong hands.

The potential dark side of 3D pill printing of illegal drugs

3Dprint.com recently published an article that touches on illegal drug manufacturers potentially using 3D printing to customize pills in all different shapes, sizes and colors, making illegal drugs more marketable to both adults and children.

When is Spritam available to prescribe?

According to their website, Aprecia says this is just the first of many products they plan to introduce using this technology. 3D printing is already used in other areas of healthcare to manufacture such things as dental implants, hip replacements and prosthetics.  Scientists are even working to one day create 3D printed bones, skin and organs such as kidneys.