3D printed medication allows several drugs to be printed into one tablet, benefitting patients that need to take multiple medicines a day.

According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, per capita health spending in the United States will grow at an average annual rate of 2.7% and reach 10.2% of GDP by 2030. The report highlights the importance technology has in driving healthcare and how it will continue to develop in remarkable ways in the future. 

The report also notes that by 2025, mind-reading exoskeletons, 3D-printed drugs, and radio frequency identification (RFID) implants will become a part of managing diseases and disabilities.

Mind-reading exoskeletons, 3D-printed drugs and radio frequency identification implants will become a part of managing diseases and disabilities by 2025.

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In a similar vein, Bertalan Meskó, the Director of The Medical Futurist Institute, remarks on the actuality of 3D-printed drugs. He references the UK biotech company, FabRx, which has developed a technology allowing them to 3D print tablets in 7-17 seconds. 

New biotechnology allows 3D tablets to be printed in 7-17 seconds.

According to the University College, London-led research team, medicines can be printed in seven seconds in a new 3D-printing technique that could enable rapid on-site production.

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Interestingly, this is not the first time they have printed medicines. The Basit lab has previously developed 3D-printed polypills to help people who need to take multiple medications each day, as well as pills with braille patterns to help the visually impaired. 

According to reports, the team behind the 3D printed medicines have predicted that in the future, they can eventually cut down the time required from seven seconds to one second, by employing a method called vat photopolymerisation, which involves printing an entire tablet in one go. 

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What was the beginning of 3D-printed medicines?

In 2015, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals’ Spritam (levetiracetam), a version of a widely used drug for controlling seizures, became the first 3D-printed drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The firm produced the drug using its proprietary ZipDose technology, which was developed using a 3D platform that originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Spritam (levetiracetam), a drug for controlling seizures, became the first 3D-printed drug approved by the FDA in 2015.

Nature Biotechnology states that printing layer by layer allows the components to be packaged more tightly, producing high-dose pills containing up to 1 gram of the drug in an individual tablet, which was typically not possible through conventional methods. 

The 3D printed tablet is able to fully disintegrate when it comes in contact with liquids as well as achieve doses up to 1000mg, which is not conventionally possible.

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What’s stopping pharmaceutical firms from large-scale 3D printing?

The challenges to 3D printing medicines include the following: 

  1. The requirements for excipients. 
  2. The development of printing software and instrumentation.
  3. Optimising the mechanical properties of products.
  4. The regulatory landscape.

However, overcoming challenges, large bio-pharmaceuticals have started to see interest in the development and production of 3D-printed medicines for trials as well as usage. This is because the method of medication we are accustomed to, which is a one-size-fits-all drug development method, is becoming expensive and ineffective. Moreover, companies are looking for new ways, such as technologies utilising 3D-printed medicines to make treatments more personalised. In the long run, this also allows manufacturers to improve R&D, reduce costs, and decrease waste.

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The future of 3D-printed medicines

GlobalData states that 3D printing will be a $32bn industry by 2025, rising to over $60bn by 2030. It is still being determined how much of that growth will be accounted for by healthcare; however, changing trends and improvements in technology are spearheading this growth. 

3D printing will be a $32B industry by 2025, rising to over $60B by 2030.

For instance, 3D printing allows several drugs to be printed into one tablet, which is a solution for patients needing multiple drugs daily. Although the technology is still in its infancy, industry experts agree that 3D printing drugs will change consumption behaviour within the next 10 years if the industry continues to grow uninterrupted.

Furthermore, they agree that patients in the future will look for more customised alternatives in healthcare as opposed to taking the same tablet as a billion other people, pointing towards an undoubtedly promising future for 3D-printed medicines.

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