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Will 3D printed medicine be a game changer in the pharma world?

Personalized medicine, the opposite of the “one size fits all” approach, has been gaining momentum in revolutionizing healthcare. But how can we create tailored drugs? One of the ways is using 3D printing, a technology that holds the key to customizing medications for individuals..

Three decades ago, 3D printers were large and expensive, but their costs have drastically reduced, making them more accessible. The pharmaceutical industry has caught on to this trend, utilizing 3D printers to produce various pharmaceutical products.

In 2015, the FDA approved the first 3D-printed tablet, Spritam, a reformulation of an anti-epileptic seizure drug. This success attracted other pharmaceutical companies to invest in developing 3D medicines, offering benefits such as shorter lead times, drug combinations, and lower costs.

The benefits of 3D-printed tailored medicine are substantial. It can significantly reduce active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) usage, up to 50%, and save working hours by up to 60% due to its formulation flexibility. On-demand production and immediate medicines are possible, making it cost-effective for products with limited shelf life.

Combining multiple drugs into a single pill, known as “polypills,” is another advantage of 3D printing. Taking the right medication at the right time becomes more convenient and safer, ensuring proper treatment adherence. Traditional manufacturing methods make polypill production costly and time-consuming, while 3D printing provides a cheaper alternative.

However, 3D printed medicine also comes with potential risks. Regulatory challenges and cyber risks are areas that need attention. The FDA’s limited regulation of 3D printing poses challenges for ensuring product safety. Additionally, the vulnerability of printers to cyber attacks may lead to an increase in counterfeit medicine or exploitation of intellectual property.

While 3D-printed medicine has proven effective, it still has a long way to go before becoming widely used worldwide. The FDA has approved only a few products since 2015, indicating the need for further research and development to fully unlock its potential in the pharmaceutical industry.

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