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This year, 3D printers have helped so many in the medical field. Able to print a variety of helpful parts ranging from prosthetic body parts to bridges from a digital file, this invention is truly revolutionary. To achieve shape and dimensions, the printer lays down layers upon layers of material until the finished product is completed.

Printed Pills

In early August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 3D printed pill: Spritam levetiracetam, a drug targeted towards epileptics to help reduce their seizures. It is manufactured by the American pharmaceutical company Aprecia. This pill differs from conventional pills in that it is produced by a special process: the drug’s active and inactive ingredients are laid down layer-by-layer. Since each pill needs to be built individually, it allows the pills to be more porous. It also lets the manufacturer control how much of a space to leave between each active ingredient laid down. According to Aprecia, more porous pills produced this way can “disintegrate in less than 10 seconds,”  which is unusually quick for such a high dose drug. This will help cut down the time patients waste dissolving pills in water.

This process will make drugs more effective. By creating a solid top part of the tablet, the manufacturer can do a variety of different combinations for the specific pill being produced. With 3D printing in the pharmaceutical field, a wide range of pills could be produced from just a half of a certain pill’s design.

 3D printing utilizes layers to create structures – and now drugs!

Source: Izabela Habur

The Future

Many are concerned about 3D printed pills replacing traditionally produced pills. Although 3D printed pills have been approved, scientists believe that they probably will not be able to change the drug industry. Most of the inventions that have been built by 3D printers have the same story. They are approved, but on such a small scale that it only permits a kind of localized or personalized production of a certain object. As of now, printed pills are very expensive to produce and sell. Traditional pills have been around for so many years and are currently much more affordable for everyone. 

What next? Pharmacists are amazed at how far we’ve come with technology. Printing pills instead of mixing ingredients in a machine to produce pills is a big step in medicine. However, due to its high costs, only large manufacturers can afford to produce printed pills. Even so, hospitals are thinking about replacing bottles of pills with a bunch of drug “printers” to produce pills right at the hospital.

Feature Image Source: Pete Linforth

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