What future holds for 3D-printed Drugs

With the recent FDA approval for another 3D printed drug, we would like to explore some developments regarding this area by a summary of reports and relevant articles.

Like Comment
Related Content

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.

Why 3D-printing?

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


Medicine & Health Subject Lead, the University of Hong Kong

Hi, I am an undergraduate student at the University of Hong Kong. I have some research experiences in heritage imaging, genome engineering, nanoparticle drug carrier, and surgical augmented reality. And I am currently learning more about computational bio-molecule stimulation and screening model for further studies. I'd love to communicate, share, and build wholeheartedly about the past, present, and future stories.


Go to the profile of SUN JIERAN
8 months ago

Also, let me know your thoughts on 3D printed drugs! what do you think of its future? Will future drugs all be printed? 

Go to the profile of James Buckley
8 months ago

Hi Sun, this is such a great informative article. I was wondering if you think these 3D printing processes could be scaled up and whether this is currently possible or will require further developments in the field? 

Go to the profile of SUN JIERAN
8 months ago

Hi James. Thanks for the question. Scaling is, without doubt, an important issue for the manufacture of 3D printing techniques. Yet I think to answer your questions from my understanding, there are no obvious technical difficulties for the relatively fast and convenient printing processes of drug tablets. Yet as a newly-emerged technique, the companies are still seeking partners to prepare for the initial commercial-scale manufacturing given the specific requirements for the manufacturing environment and 3D printers.

Many of those drug-printing techniques focused on rare diseases as they provide more flexibilities with lower cost. That, to some extent, may also be related to the fact that the newborn techniques are looking for a way to enter the market, even with some printed drugs approved by the FDA.

I found this article may be relevant to your comment and also check this out if you want to learn more about the printing techniques.

Lemme know your thoughts! :))