The US Food and Drug Administration has given the go-ahead to the production of the world’s first 3D-printed drug. Spritam, a fast-dissolving tablet that can be printed up to 1,000mg to make it easier for epilepsy patients to swallow, was developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals. “By combining 3D-printed technology with a highly prescribed epilepsy treatment, Spritam is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience,” said Aprecia chief executive officer, Don Wetherhold. “This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication.”
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3D-printing could transform pharmaceuticals
3D-printing is already proving useful in healthcare with doctors harnessing the technology to fabricate bespoke implants for patients with injuries or other conditions. And Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, believed 3D-printing could transform the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to medicines production. “I think the real value is in medications that are either mass-customised or produced in shorter runs more cost effectively than today. That’s where the real benefits are,” explained Mr Basiliere. “With this you could tailor the medication better to individuals, and you could produce shorter runs of a drug that targets the populations.” Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan, a lecturer in pharmaceutics at the University of Central Lancashire, said the system paved the way to a future in which medical institutions could tweak the drugs they prescribe to individual patients. “For the last 50 years we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals and for the first time this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient,” commented Dr Alhnan. Prior to 3D-printing, developing personalised medicine would have been extremely expensive, he added. According to Aprecia, Spritam will launch in the first quarter of 2016. The pharmaceutical company is now said to be eyeing the development of other medications using its 3D platform.