The very first 3D-printed pill has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The honor goes to Spritam, a drug developed to control epileptic seizures by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, which also developed ZipDose, the 3D-printing platform used to make the pills. The ability to 3D print drugs already has huge advantages over conventional drug manufacturing, but experts think it could lead the way to something huge: bespoke drugs.
What’s great about ZipDose is that it allows more medication to be packed into an individual tablet, which could make huge, hard-to-swallow pills obsolete. Spritam, for example, packs in a 1,000-mg dose of medication into a single tablet but dissolves like any other pill. It can also adjust dosages for individual patients.
The new technology allows us to move away from the one-pill-fits all approach and into a new era of customized drugs. Because the medication is printed layer by layer, controlling and changing dosages could potentially be done with a simple software tweak. Pill manufacturing could even be brought out of factories and into medical institutions, where the pills could be printed on a patient-by-patient basis. Before 3D printing, customizing drugs was incredibly expensive to do.
For now, ZipDose is focusing on maximizing and customizing dosages. No word yet on whether the new 3D-printing platform can be used to combine different drugs in addition to tweaking dosages, but there’s no doubt the basic tech will act as a launchpad for the next era of drug design. This field’s one to watch.