Apr 29, 2016 | By Kira

Distinguished Chemistry Professor at the University of Glasgow Lee Cronin spoke at a 3D printing-themed INTERPHEX conference this week, urging the pharmaceutical industry to adopt 3D printed drugs as a way to dramatically cut costs, improve efficiency, and bring more personalized medicine to those in need.

Cronin and his lab have been at the forefront of developing custom 3D printed reactionware, a process that combines inexpensive 3D printing with the ‘chemical internet’, and which could lead to a new and cost-effective means for producing custom chemical reactors outside traditional laboratory environments. An important aspect of his work is to develop cheaper and more democratic medicine, particularly for developing parts of the world.

Though his own work in chemical 3D printing dates back several years, Cronin took to the stage at the INTERPHEX Pharmaceutical Expo in New York to make the point that now, more than ever, it is time for pharmaceutical manufacturers to get in on the technology and begin reaping the benefits both for their businesses and patients.

“It will be like Uber for Chemistry,” said the professor. “You will call drugs up as needed.”

The ‘Uber for X’ model has been adopted by an almost mindboggling array of companies offering everything from alcohol delivery to personal massages. Referring to the explosively popular ride-share app, ‘Uber for X’ essentially refers to a product or service that individuals can call up immediately and on-demand. While the concept itself is simple enough, when applied to the pharmaceutical industry, it would require a major overhaul of existing practices. Indeed, the entire model would have to be re-thought.

Currently, companies order generic drugs to be manufactured in huge production runs at large-scale facilities. They are then shipped to hospitals or pharmacies and often stored for long periods of time. With 3D printing, however, manufacturers could shift production to smaller centers, or even produce drugs on-demand in hospitals or in remote, underserved regions.

Rather than stocking large quantities of generic formulas, patient-specific pills, tailored to the exact needs of individuals based on their gender, age, and weight could be manufactured in-house, reducing wait times and increasing the drugs’ effectiveness. For a more in-depth look, we’ve covered the benefits of 3D printed pills here.

It certainly sounds like a win-win, but the pharmaceutical industry has remained slow—if not reluctant—to get on board. Currently there is only one FDA-approved and commercially available 3D printed drug on the market: Aprecia’s Spritam (levetiracetam) for seizure treatment.

The reason for this slow uptake is often credited to the initial investments associated with buying and implementing 3D printing technology. While it is true that the high-end 3D printers required to fabricate drugs are considerably expensive, Cronin argues that the technology is advancing at a remarkable rate.

3D printers are becoming faster and cheaper every year. More importantly, because 3D printing allows for quicker production of smaller and more flexible runs, the initial investment costs can actually be offset rather quickly. It may not be easy to swallow for such a traditionally conservative and regulated industry, but 3D printing is a crucial step forward for pharmaceuticals, and the sooner companies learn about its opportunities and limitations, the better for all.

The INTERPHEX exhibition was sponsored by the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) and took place in NYC from April 26-28. The event, which showcases all means of pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, held a special, in-depth examination of 3D printing’s future role in drug development.

In addition to Professor Cronin, speakers included Guatam Gupta, VP of healthcare business development at 3DSYSTEMS, Gregory M. Paulsen, business development manager at Xometry, and Ricky Wildman, whose topic was “3D Printing – Creating New Ways of Manufacture and Delivery of Drugs.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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