The Future of Pharmaceutical 3D Printing

The Future of Pharmaceutical 3D Printing

Are you aware of the concept of “Personalized medicines“? If you are a researcher who is working on Drugs or a Technology enthusiast looking out for opportunities or from a Biotech background working with cutting-edge technologies, this article will help you in understanding the paradigm shift that the Medical field will undergo due to 3D Printing.

Being a 3D Printing technology enthusiast and closely working with few technologies, I am confident enough to say that 3D Printing will be a “Game-changer” in the medical field. Be it curing ‘Corneal Blindness’ by 3D Printing Cornea using Stem-cells, ‘3D printing prosthetic limbs’ for Kids and 3D Printing heart stents, 3D Printing has never failed to impress the scientists and researchers across the world. One such promising is the Pharmaceutical Industry. Let’s discuss how 3D printing has exciting research areas and opportunities in the Drug Industry.

Why do we need Drug 3D Printing?

Vision statement :

The vision behind Drug 3D Printing is to make size, dosage, appearance, and rate of delivery of drug to be designed to suit an Individual.”

Everybody has their own limitations with respect to their body. For example, few may be allergic to a few drugs and few may really exhibit difficulties in swallowing mechanism as their body reacts to the drugs in a different way. It’s natural for humans to expect personalized touches in everything. Be it gifts, home interiors, and even food. When the world has already made efforts in customizing these things, why haven’t we realized the need for personalization in our life-saving medicine?

In future, Imagine going out to a Pharma outlet to get your prescribed drug from your doctor. You can give out the details on your body weight, fat percentage, protein intake etc in order to 3D Print customized drugs to suit your purpose. Wouldn’t it be amazing? That’s the prospect the 3D Printing Industry and researchers in Medical field are closely working towards. In addition, if Tailor-made medicines come into existence we can print “Paracetamol” in the “Star” shape and with any colors, the kids would be attracted to and thus less drama during intake.

However, by adopting additive manufacturing, the construction industry can have advantages like better creativity, design flexibility, less material waste, lower carbon footprint, and more robust structures. It’s a fast-growing industry with experts estimating the value of 3D printing construction to reach $56.4 million by 2021. This is a huge market!

Drug 3D Printing process

Any 3D Printing technology’s idea is to build three-dimensional structures using the predetermined input design. The biggest challenge lies in the materials research and to adopt the technology to print the materials.

In Drug 3D Printing, the raw material can be in the form of filaments , powders and liquid resin. 3D Printing technologies like SLA, FDM, Binder Jetting and SLS can be used for this purpose.

Initially, the design is fed to the printer with various details like dosage, infill, and geometry. Once the raw material is fed in the form of filament/powder/resin the process starts. Heat is the energy source which binds the particles and builds a final tablet structure.

Representation of the Drug 3D Printing process

Image source : https://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0378517316311929-fx1_lrg.jpg

Global Scenario of Drug Printing

Pennsylvania based startup had 3D Printed Spritam tablets which are used to treat Epilepsy. This drug was also approved by US-FDA. The uniqueness of this tablet is that it will disperse in the mouth within seconds when taken with a sip of liquid.

In 2017, Aprecia and Cycle Pharmaceuticals from UK announced a partnership to develop and commercialize 3d printed tablets for orphan diseases

Recent trends

One of the recent trends in Drug Printing is the idea of printing “Many pills in One tablet”. If we can change the drug distribution according to geometry that would possibly help patients reduce the number of different tablets a patient takes. This concept which is highly theoretical, if proved will make patient’s life simple. 

Business Opportunities & Challenges

This technolgy is still in its nascent stages in India. People from several backgrounds should come forward to explore more opportunities in this field. It would be great if research Institutions can do more work in this front coupled with renowned Pharmaceutical Companies in collaboration with 3D Printing firms. The Material research undoubtedly plays a huge role in this. Talented researchers and Scientists can come up with Innovative drug formulations. We can conduct seminars or workshops to create awareness and connect the right minds to realize this 3D Printed Drug Idea.

The biggest challenge for this technology lies in Certifications. Also, there is a risk of drugs filed under wrong descriptions and higher strength than advised. The 4-5% failure in standard manufacturing route is unlikely change in this process.

References

  1. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/you-could-soon-be-manufacturing-your-own-drugs-thanks-3d-printing
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/aug/21/welcome-to-complex-world-of-3d-printed-drugs-spritam-fda
  3. https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/3d-printing-in-pharma/3008804.article

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