Oliver Knight reveals how scientists at the University of Glasgow are pioneering the use of 3D printers to create drugs and other chemicals.
Medical 3D printing took a step forward on the 15th of August as Ohio-based scientists created the world’s first 3D printed drug.
Spritam levetiracetam, commercialised by the pharmaceutical company Aprecia, hopes that this revolutionary process can help the use of companion drugs, in their effort to reduce the number of pills taken – combining into one.
Whilst spritam is used as an adjunctive therapy, meaning that it helps enhance another drug’s efficacy, it is hoped that this method of interlacing drugs is the next step in drug manufacture. Part of the revolutionary technology involves the patented “ZipDose” technology – making the pill more porous, allowing the drug to dissolve more effectively and reach is target with more efficiency.
In 2012 University of Glasgow researchers worked toward chemically synthesising drugs whilst they were being printed. The order of component addition was likened to assembling a cake.
“For the last 50 years,” Dr Mohammed Albed Alhan of the University of Central Lancashire writes, “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.”
A level of personalisation could tailor drugs for individual patients. For example, one tablet could contain an anti-coagulant, as well as an anticonvulsant. Combined with near-patient production, this could keep manufacture levels down at a pharmaceutical level, and put more responsibility on community pharmacies.
3D printing techniques have grown in the last few years, notably with the production of firearms. Within the biomedical industry, it has also been trialled with personalised artificial limbs. Even more experimentally, American bioprinting company Organovo synthesised a human liver – unsuitable for human transplantation, but viable for clinical testing. This adds a new level of personalised medicine in treatment and maintenance.