3D-printed pharmaceuticals pave the way for customizable drug therapies

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Personalized pills created by 3D printers will help treat complex diseases cheaply.

Since its inception during the later decades of the last century, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) has moved far beyond merely fabricating simple plastic parts. Today the technique can be used to produce much-needed medical supplies such as personal protective equipment for health care workers fighting COVID-19. Among other advances, 3D printing is now also considered a serious tool to advance medicine and pharmacology through bioprinting. Bioprinting can create anatomical models of patients prior to surgery and some biological tissues, with the goal of progressing to printing whole complex organs such as the heart. However, another emerging and potentially revolutionary use for 3D bioprinting is the production of pharmaceutical drugs that are tailored to meet the needs of specific patients.

In 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first 3D-printed pharmaceutical, SPRITAM (levetiracetam), created by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals for the treatment of seizures. Although the drug remains the only 3D-printed drug currently approved by the FDA, the many advantages of 3D-printed drugs place them at the forefront of what’s ahead for medicine as the FDA works on formulating a regulatory framework for them.

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