Aug 4, 2015 | By Alec

While we’ve seen a lot of interesting 3D printed medical applications appear in surgery rooms already – think about 3D printed titanium implants or plastic replicas of organs – most 3D bioprinted innovations will easily take years before reaching patients. However, one New Jersey-based Farmaceutical company called Aprecia is hard at work pioneering another 3D printed medical application: 3D printed pills that can be taken orally. What’s more, Aprecia have just been awarded FDA approval for the first of 3D printed drug of its kind, the epilepsy drug Spritam.

The company in question is a relatively young pharmaceutical company based in East Winsor, New Jersey, and claims to be the world’s only company to utilize 3D printing technology to develop drugs. And as they say in their press release, Spritam is only the first of the 3D printed drugs they are planning to develop.

As the company argues, their new drug could play a key role in treating a variety of seizure afflictions. ‘[It’s] a prescription adjunctive therapy in the treatment of partial onset seizures, myoclonic seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures in adults and children with epilepsy,’ they write. This is good news for the large number of patients suffering from epilepsy-related afflictions, of which there are an estimated three million in the US alone (of which about a sixth are children). This new drug is set to be released in the first quarter of 2016.

But why, you can rightly ask, does a drug like this need to be 3D printed? Surely epilepsy drugs already exist? Well you would be absolutely right, but the company argues that many patients have reported finding it difficult swallowing the large pills necessary. ‘In my experience, patients and caregivers often have difficulty following a treatment regimen. Whether they are dealing with a swallowing disorder or the daily struggle of getting a child to take his or her medication, adherence can be a challenge,’ said Ohio-based doctor Marvin H. Rorick in the company’s release. ‘Especially for children and seniors, having an option for patients to take their medication as prescribed is important to managing this disease.’

And that’s where 3D printing comes in. Aprecia uses a technology they call ZipDose 3D printing, which essentially revolves around Powder-liquid 3D printing to create porous structures that rapidly disintegrate when coming into contact with liquids. Essentially, this creates a very efficient way of delivering high doses of the medication. And while most pills disintegrate when put in a glass of water, these 3D printed pills are (as you can see in the clip below) insanely quick. ‘Aprecia developed its ZipDose Technology platform using the 3DP technology that originated at MIT. Using 3DP as a catalyst, Aprecia is developing formulations of medicines that rapidly disintegrate with a sip of liquid, even at high dose loads,’ they mysteriously say about the exact way the technology works.

‘By combining 3DP technology with a highly-prescribed epilepsy treatment, SPRITAM is designed to fill a need for patients who struggle with their current medication experience,’ Don Wetherhold, Chief Executive Officer of Aprecia reveals. He further stated that this same approach will be used on other drugs in the near future as well. ‘This is the first in a line of central nervous system products Aprecia plans to introduce as part of our commitment to transform the way patients experience taking medication,’ he added.

However, on a more general note, this 3D printed approach to drugs does open up a wide range of options for more customized drugs. Tao Levy, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, has already speculated that this could be used to develop custom drugs featuring a dosage perfect for a single patient, rather than continuing today’s one-size-fits-all approach. As all our bodies, sizes and conditions are slightly different, this could increase the effectiveness of medical treatment. Doctors in the US already have access to a government-sponsored 3D-printing repository, through which they can share designs to aid in medical treatment, and 3D printed drugs could be a welcome addition to that system. In short, Spritam is definitely paving the way for a new generation of 3D printed drugs.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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