New FDA-Approved 3D Printed Drug: Personalized Medicine Has Arrived

Much excitement along with skepticism arose this week as the FDA approved the first 3D printed prescription drug to treat epilepsy. Produced by the drug maker, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, the FDA has approved the drug named Spritam for both adults and children suffering from certain types of seizures caused by epilepsy.


3D printing is disrupting many production methods that date all the way back to the Industrial Revolution, from fashion and retail to computer science and healthcare. We’ve seen this concept of bio printing quickly come to life where instead of traditional “ink” the printers spray human cells. Bio printing has promised to transform everything from transplant surgery, creation of human cells, prosthetics, lifelike models of organs and even the potential to reproduce and grow human organs.

But now we’re able to 3D print prescription drugs? The tablet is made through a layering process using a 3D printer and it simply dissolves when taken with liquid and works to treat seizures in certain types of Epilepsy. Aprecia Pharmaceuticals claims its printing system can package doses of the drug up to 1,000 milligrams into individual tablets.

Expected to launch in 2016, the approval of the first 3D printed drug further shows the direction healthcare is heading, and that is personalized medicine. Also called precision medicine, this approach leads to individual treatments for each patient. How does 3D printing fit into the puzzle? This production method of creating medicine not only offers speed but it leads to the possibility of creating customized medicines for the variants that so many diseases come with.

Imagine a world where drug ingredients, almost like an individual recipe for each patient, are punched into a 3D printer wired with a set of chemical inks? Think about patients who are allergic to certain ingredients in medications. This limits the drugs that they have access to and in some cases can affect their road to recovery. If the future of creating drugs is so we can easily, efficiently and quickly eliminate that ingredient but keep the ones needed, we could be looking at a world where the concept of customized medicine truly comes alive.

The world of personalized medicine creates an approach where each patient is treated individually based on their genetic makeup. The National Institutes of Health defines precision medicine as an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that integrates an individual’s variability in genes, environment and lifestyle. To take it even further, precision health may be the secret to predict and ultimately prevent various diseases already present in the inner workings of our genetic profile.

Approval of this technology in the drug approval environment is a major step forward. This technology is the first that allows a company to tailor each dose to the individual patient. The drug is set to hit the market in 2016.