3D Printed Pills Could Bring Bespoke Drugs to a Hospital Near You

It’s a development that could spell the end of horse pills, those large pharmaceuticals that seem impossible to swallow.

Yesterday, the FDA approved the first drug to be manufactured using 3D printing. In a buzzword-heavy press release that would make a venture capitalist swoon, Aprecia, the company that makes Spritam, the newly approved drug, claims the technology allows high-dose pills to be made more porously, allowing them to dissolve more quickly.

spritam
3D-printed Spritam pills

The active ingredient in Spritam is levetiracetam, an existing anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy that has been available as a generic in the U.S. since 2008. By creating a new, smaller, more dissolvable pill packaging, Aprecia is clearly hoping to distinguish its product from the generics.

In the long term, though, 3D printing could offer much more than just tinier pills. Here’s BBC News:

Being able to 3D print a tablet offers the potential to create bespoke drugs based on the specific needs of patients, rather than having a one product fits all approach, according to experts.

“For the last 50 years we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals and for the first time this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient,” said Dr Mohamed Albed Alhnan, a lecturer in pharmaceutics at the University of Central Lancashire.

Today, most bespoke drugs are formulated at specialized compounding pharmacies that are frequently miles away from the hospitals and clinics in which they are used. 3D printing could bring those capabilities into hospitals and clinics, cutting time off delivery and making custom pharmaceuticals easier to obtain.