Recently, a 3D-printed drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis, T19, has received Investigational New Drug (IND) approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the first FDA-approved 3D-printed tablet, Spritam, traces back to 2015, the recent approval has shed light on the future of 3D-printed personalized medicine.
How to print drugs?
Several techniques are available to print medicine into defined structures. And two of them are widely applied.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most common technique. And it can be explained by the simple demonstration down here. The active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and structural polymers are extruded and printed. Yet one of its challenges is that the high temperature during printing may cause degradation of API. Read further here.
Direct Powder Extrusion(DPE) is similar to FDM and is used for the development of the first 3D printed medication, ZipDose. Making use of the porosity of the API, DPE disintegrated a high load of medication into powders and extrude them for printing. According to the British pharmaceutical company, this technique maintained a sustained drug release dosing.
Several reasons contribute to the questions. For instance, 3D printed allows a mixed receipt. That is, you can print multiple drug components on one tablet. Plus, the precise control on tablet size and internal geometry allows a sustainable release dose control that fits into patients' natural circadian cycle. And you have to admit the process is quite smooth. With an automated process of extrusion and printing, you'll have a pill with the drug of your dose precisely. read further here for 3D printed drug potential.
Where does the future lead?
The core challenges for 3D printed drugs are both in terms of regulation and its efficiency. Scientists are not sure if all drugs can be printed as some active ingredient seems to be dysfunctional once printed. And efficient real-time quality control remains a tricky issue when it comes to 3D printed drug regulation.
With that said, though it might be too early to consider 3D printing as an alternative technology for manufacturing drugs now, it is still a promising field with the increasing market size. Maybe one day we can have our drug in vendor machines by the street. Quick and handy.
Further reading: Latest advancements of 3D printed drugs