August 30, 2017 | Pharma and Life Sciences
The impact of 3D printing has been far flung, with several industries waking up to the true potential of this innovative technology. But if there is one industry where this technology has been at its transformative best, it is the healthcare industry. At a time when healthcare costs are rapidly spiraling, 3D printing has emerged as a cost-effective and widely accessible technology option. Importantly, 3D printing in healthcare is expected to be worth approximately $6 billion by 2025.
Rapid Advancement in 3D Printing
With 3D printing costs dropping, many divisions within the healthcare industry have been quick to seize the opportunity, driving innovations in 3D printing and replacing expensive procedures. What has also greatly helped is the role played by FDA in paving the way for greater implementation of 3D printing. We are seeing 3D printing being extensively used in prosthetics and surgical implants, and dental procedures. Heavyweights such as GSK are already investing and exploring 3D printing for drugs and organs. K2M Group Holdings, a global leader in complex spine and minimally invasive solutions, recently got an FDA approval for a 3D-printed expandable posterior lumbar interbody system. Similarly, DENTCA, an orthodontic company was given clearance for a material being used for 3D-printed dentures.
The Emergence and Advantage of 3D-Printed Pills
3D-printed pills are yet another innovation that is revolutionizing drug consumption. In what has been a boost to 3D printing, the FDA has been actively collaborating with firms, helping them bring innovations to the market. Spritam, the first US FDA approved 3D-printed drug from Pennsylvania-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals is being used to treat epilepsy. In this context, it is important to note that FDA hasn’t laid out any unique regulatory adherence for 3D-printed drugs. The general rules, such as the ones related to contamination and robustness that apply to other drugs, are applicable to 3D-printed drugs as well.
The advantages of 3D-printed pills are immense, with the most notable being:
Another area under pharmaceutical development that could greatly benefit from the customization feature of 3D printing is clinical trials. The drugs can undergo clinical trials to evaluate the best ingredients, best size, best dosage and other aspects in a much shorter span compared to how it is currently done. This would mean faster approvals and quicker introduction of medicines to the market.
While the advantages and outcomes of 3D-printed pills are there for everyone to see, there are several challenges that need to be overcome to make 3D printing of pills a feasible option in the near future:
Undeniably, there is an air of anticipation about the numerous possibilities with 3D printing. With Aprecia becoming the first company to get an FDA approval for its 3D-printed pills, it has opened the doors for many research and pharma companies to follow suit. However, while talking about the many positives of cost-effective 3D-printed drugs, it is equally important to discuss the challenges that can be a hindrance to long-term and large-scale success. Regulatory and infrastructure of healthcare are some of the binding issues. For the time being though, 3D printing of pills seems like a feasible option only for small-scale local manufacturing.