The FDA has approved the first 3D-printed drug, called Spritam Levetiracetam, which will be used to treat seizures in certain patients with epilepsy. In the last 20 years, 3D printing has grown from a fantasy for many, to a 2.7-billion dollar industry, responsible for the production of all sorts of products, whether it be toys, food, or engines for airplane. Scientists have also been working with these 3D printers to create items with important social and medical implications, and this new 3D-printed drug is likely just the beginning.
Aprecia Pharmaceutical produced this medication by spreading layers of the drug on top of one another until the right dosage was reached. Using the layering aspect, the printer can create a higher dosage of medication, up to 1,000 mg. The pill, which is designed for people who cannot swallow medication, will dissolve when activated by contact with liquid. This could be useful for younger patients who do not like taking horse-pills, as well as the elderly with sensitive throat muscles. Spritam has been rumored to be released in the first quarter of 2016.
The release of Spritam initiates a scientific dialogue about creating drugs based on the specific needs of patients, rather than having a one-product-fits-all approach. By slightly tweaking the software of the printer, it will be able to be more flexible in either increasing or decreasing the amount of medication your body needs, rather than asking the patient to adjust their body to a specific dosage. Without 3D printing, such personalized medicine would be a hassle to create and exorbitantly priced.
Levetiracetam has been around for years and is available as a generic prescription, but the true magic of this is the more effective delivery model. Like most medications, Spritam does have side effects, but the side effects of the 3D printed pill are identical to those of the regularly manufactured pill.
The only danger that scientists are truly worried about is the potential for people to hack into the 3D printers and create a lethal dosage of specific drugs. With this danger in mind, high-tech security will likely be the next topic of discussion in regards to 3D-printed medicine.