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3D-Printing Hits the Drug Scene

by Michael Shanler  |  August 4, 2015  |  Comments Off on 3D-Printing Hits the Drug Scene

This month, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval to manufacture a 3D printed drug tablet.  (See press release for “Aprecia Introduces its First Product Using the ZipDose® Formulation Platform for the Treatment of Epilepsy”   https://www.aprecia.com/pdf/2015_08_03_Spritam_FDA_Approval_Press_Release.pdf )  Cool Stuff!

Over the last few years, several clients have asked why is it even necessary to 3D print a drug.  After all, there are other more stable and scalabable manufacturing methods of tablets that can be run at much lower cost (and have already withstood regulatory and quality scrutiny). I see 3DP drugs having 2 main advantages:

  • The first advantage of 3DPrinted drugs, is that it enables the drug itself to dissolve at quicker rate than many traditional “filler-based” methods of manufacturing. Specifically, the 3DP technology enables a “porous formulation that rapidly disintegrates with a sip of liquid”.  Thus, certain drugs can then have quicker effects, which loosely translates to better patient experiences.    There are a variety of ways to engineer a drug to disintegrate faster, but most require other formulation chemistries or materials.
  • Also, printed drugs allow doctors to perfectly tailor a drug dose (mg) to an individual patient based on weight, patient profile, etc. Most drugs are often produced in set quantities, and to create a unique dose requires compounding (usually manually intensive) or secondary processes.   The printing technology may enable a streamlined supply chain for creating personalized doses. (e.g. no more pill cutting, taking doses larger than necessary, etc.)

While applying a novel 3DP technology in this industry sector and doing it in a way to survive FDA regulatory scrutiny is quite the “win”, we’ll only witness a true “victory,” as more drugs following suit and gain approval.  However, before any of this can happen, business models need to evolve.  Many organizations are simply not ready to adopt 3DP.  There are a lot of IT-intensive challenges with functional groups (R&D, clinical regulatory, IP, and supply chain.) These need to be addressed before organizing any ticker tape parades.

3DP is often characterized as “interesting” or “neat.” It is often positioned as a technology in  search of a solution.  While 3DP technology advancements continue to create exciting opportunities across a variety of industry sectors,  the “hype” (or hysteria) must be kept in check…which leads to my segue.  Last week, we published the following:

 3DP printed drug technology spans both of these hype cycles.

Additional Resources

Category: 3d-printing  additive-manufacturing  clinical-development  innovation  it  manufacturing  pharmaceutical  product-development  supply-chain  

Michael Shanler
Research VP
5 years at Gartner

Michael Shanler covers life science R&D technologies. Read Full Bio




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