For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a 3-D printed pill.
Developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, the pill will be used by patients with epilepsy to control seizures. But the FDA's stamp of approval could have far broader applications; Aprecia Pharmaceuticals plans to develop other medications using 3-D printing technology, the BBC reports.
While 3-D printing technology has been dinged for generating outsized expectations that have yet to be fulfilled, in health care its impact has already been profound. From customized 3-D printed prosthetics and hip replacements, to 3-D printed bones, skin and personalized replicas of tumors (for use in cancer treatment), the industry is a place where novel technology and actual use cases have intercepted to create real innovation.
Pills fit neatly into this vein. Not only does the technology – which builds up a tablet in layers – allow for more concentrated pills, it could also make it easier and more cost-efficient (an adjustment to software, instead of the traditional manufacturing process) to create pills precisely tailored for a patient's exact dosage.
In addition, "for the last 50 years 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," Dr. Mohamed Albed Alhnan, a lecturer in pharmaceutics at the University of Central Lancashire, told the BBC.