3D printing isn’t new to anyone, but many of its applications are only now being fully realized. For example, while you may be aware of some of the applications of 3D printing, such as construction materials, car parts, and even 3D printed food.
It's an exciting new world for 3D printing, and it's only just the beginning. Even now, almost fifty years since it was first invented, we're only just scratching the surface when it comes to the possibilities that 3D printing offers, especially in the field of pharmaceuticals.
In the following article, we’ll be focusing on the benefits of 3D printing to the pharmaceutical industry, including:
Faster Pre-Medical Assessment of New Drugs
Options for Personalized Medication
New Formulations for Improved Drug Performance and Patient Experience
On-Demand Production of Medication
Reducing Drug Development Costs
Improving the Scalability of Production
The Ability to Print QR Codes Directly to Drugs
The Benefits of 3D Printing to the Pharmaceutical Industry
1. Faster Pre-Medical Assessment of New Drugs
While it may appear that new drugs are coming on the market rapidly, you don’t see how much work goes on behind the scenes and how long the pre-medical assessments on new drugs take.
Did you know that the new drugs must pass through four stages of pre-medical assessments by the FDA before they even get close to being released to the public? It can take years for a drug to pass through all required testing and clinical trials before it’s available for sale.
However, even the slightest change to a drug’s ingredients can take a significant amount of time. 3D printing gives medical engineers and pharmacists the ability to customize the structure of a drug quickly and easily by modifying its design in a CAD file. As a result, iterations are faster to make, quicker to implement, and cost less.
According to MatchTrial, “the process of developing a new drug usually takes a total of 10 to 15 years on average.” So, any amount of time that 3D printing can reduce this process could be priceless not only to pharmaceutical companies but also to the people waiting for new drugs to be approved.
2. Options for Personalized Medication
If you've ever had to deal with any serious medical issues, you already know how difficult it is to handle taking multiple pills. However, did you know that thanks to 3D printing, you could now take a polypill instead?
A Polypill contains multiple active ingredients, which are all combined into one pill, rather than you having to take two, three, or even more pills all at the same time.
“Individualized and customized medicines are playing an increasingly important role in the future of healthcare,” said Klaus Kühne, Chief Operations Officer of Laxxon Medical.
Now, imagine that you need to take a drug, but there’s one ingredient that doesn’t change the effects of the drug that causes you to have an adverse reaction. Wouldn’t it be good if you could get a slightly different version of that drug customized personally for you? That’s another possibility that 3D printing of pharmaceutical drugs offers.
To read more about the customization of medication, check our blog on Individualized and Customized Medicine’s Important Role in the Future of Healthcare.
3. New Formulations for Improved Drug Performance and Patient Experience
According to Oralflo, "40% of Americans have difficulty swallowing pills." The most significant problem people have with taking pills is the coating, shape, and size of the pill.
Now, imagine that you could request your pills to have a specific coating, shape, or size. No more gagging or having to drink excessive amounts of water just to take your pills.
It’s just another perk that 3D printing of pharmaceuticals offers patients. A better patient experience and improved public perception of pharmaceutical companies.
4. On-Demand Production of Medication
When you walk into a pharmacy with a prescription for medication from your doctor or health professional, and in return, you receive your medication. However, there’s no guarantee they will have the drug in stock depending on current stock, availability, and rarity.
Instead of waiting for the supply chain to slowly source your medication, imagine if your pharmacist could pull up your drug on the computer and simply order it just in time.
Now, this application wouldn't just work at your local pharmacist, but it could also work in various applications, including hospitals and nursing homes.
Not only would this enable patients to access their medication faster, but it would also reduce inventory and delivery costs to pharmaceutical companies looking to improve their patient experiences.
5. Reducing Drug Development Costs
According to Deloitte, the average cost of developing a new drug, among the top 20 global biopharma it studied, rose 15% last year to almost $2.3 billion per drug. It’s easy to forget that the packet of pills you take every month can cost billions of dollars to invent, develop, test, market, and approve.
Not only that, but the cost of developing new drugs is increasing and shows no signs of decreasing anytime soon. However, the 3D printing of pharmaceuticals could have a significant impact on the costs associated with developing new drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies developing a new drug could quickly and easily modify the ingredients or structure of a drug using a CAD file and then use that file to 3D print the new pill. No more costly mass production runs of pills.
6. Improving the Scalability of Production
Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for decades doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. For example, most tablets or pills are made using three different types of processes, wet granulation, dry granulation, or direct compression.
There are several steps in the process, including weighing, milling, granulation, mixing, compaction, drying, coating, and, eventually, packaging. These processes involve sourcing materials from across the world, transporting them, combining them, packaging them, and ultimately shipping them back worldwide.
Throughout these three different processes, any number of things can go wrong, including contamination, degradation of ingredients, uniformity issues, and much more.
The 3D printing of pharmaceuticals would allow manufacturers to set in place a procedure and ultimately select the drug they want to print and hit the button with every pill produced with precisely the same consistency, shape, size, and uniformity.
Not only that, but by utilizing 3D printing facilities in different countries, pharmaceutical companies could drastically reduce the length and complexity of supply chains, increase production speed, and reduce the costs and limitations associated with long supply chains.
By improving supply chain issues, pharmaceutical companies can improve their reputation and consumer satisfaction while also increasing their profits.
7. The Ability to Print QR Codes Directly to Drugs
Not only can revolutionary 3D printing technology allow us to print custom medication, but thanks to Laxxon Medical’s SPID®-Technology, we can now print QR codes directly to individual pills, which opens up a world of benefits to patients.
The benefits of QR codes printed directly on pharmaceutical products include the following:
Tracking and tracing all medication globally to counter the threat of counterfeit medications entering the global supply chain under the guise of legitimate drugs.
Giving patients easy and fast access to medical information about their drugs eliminates the need to supply physical or electronic copies of information, ingredients, side effects, and possible adverse interactions.
Allow hospitals and nursing homes to improve the safety of their patients by tracking the dispensing of pills to multiple patients in one location while simultaneously increasing efficiency.
“Automatic dispensing in nursing homes and hospitals, particularly in the US, are still having to control that patients get the right treatment at the right time at the right place. Here QR codes can be extremely supportive because all necessary information regarding dosing, side effects, etc., can be accessed directly from the tablet regardless of secondary packaging material,” said Klaus Kühne, Chief Operations Officer of Laxxon Medical.
One study published in the National Library of Medicine studied 237 randomly selected nurses from Imam Khomeini Hospital in Iran and found that 64.55% of these nurses administered medical errors, most commonly wrong dosages and infusion rates.
“If you think about the daily work of nurses in hospitals or nursing homes, where they are managing multiple tasks and patients, and also dispensing different medications to the different patients, there is clearly room for human error,” Kühne said.
It’s Just the Beginning
We’re only just beginning to scratch the surface regarding the 3D printing of pharmaceuticals, and the future looks very bright.
Laxxon recently announced its partnership with Hovione, a global pharmaceutical CMDO, with plans to begin producing clinical samples in Hovione’s facilities with Laxxon’s cGMP printer.
Laxxon Medical is dedicated to engineering patented 3D pharmaceutical solutions which optimize products and benefit patients. Our goal is to establish SPID®-Technology as a manufacturing process that has the individual and the pharmaceutical partner in mind.