“It will take a few minutes to upload the instructions for your prescription to the 3D printer. We will call you once your medication is ready to be picked up.” While it seems like science fiction, your pharmacist may describe filling your prescription using this emerging technology sooner than you might think. In this blog post, I’ll discuss how 3D printing of drugs in concert with biosimulation technology could accelerate the move towards personalized medicine.
The emergence of precision medicine
- Age, weight, height, sex, and ethnicity
- Current drug dosage and co-medications
- Activity of metabolic enzymes and transporters
- Level of organ function
The insights gleaned from biosimulation combined with customizable formulation via 3D printing stand to create a new paradigm for how medications are given to patients.
3D printing and its application to health care
3D printing uses a computer-controlled printer to lay down successive layers of material to create the 3D model. The biomedical applications of 3D printing have become a hot topic in recent years. For example, 3D printing has been using to create a number of artificial, lab grown tissues including human bladders, vaginas, and most recently, heart cells.
What’s more, this new technology is poised to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry. Last month, the FDA approved the first 3D printed drug, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals anticonvulsant, SPRITAM® (levetiracetam). This new formulation offers several advantages compared to conventionally produced medications. First, the 3D printed drug quickly dissolves in a small drink of water. It is easy to imagine how the ability to quickly get therapeutic concentrations of an anticonvulsant on board would benefit a patient who was having seizure, perhaps in a public setting where intravenous delivery of medications isn’t feasible. In addition, by using a 3D printer, the pill can be produced with higher doses than normal pills. Again, this could help with medication adherence if patients can take one pill a day rather than several times a day.
Custom dosing using 3D printing
The ultimate use for this technology in individualized dose optimization. This would confer a major benefit to patients taking medications with complex pharmacokinetics (PK). One such example is tacrolimus, a widely used immunosuppressant for both adult and pediatric solid organ transplant recipients. Tacrolimus has a narrow therapeutic index and significant inter- and intra-individual PK variability. In addition, it has highly variable oral bioavailability due to extensive pre-systemic metabolism by CYP3A and uptake by P-glycoprotein transporters.
To ensure graft survival, it is essential to optimize the dose of tacrolimus for individual patients. The standard of care has been therapeutic drug monitoring wherein trough concentration (Ctrough) has been used to guide tacrolimus dosing. There is an urgent need for alternative strategies for estimating tacrolimus exposure as the relationship between Ctrough and organ rejection is controversial. My colleagues at Certara developed an
In the not too distant future, I envision the convergence of two powerful emerging technologies: biosimulation and 3D printing. The former would be used to identify to ideal dose for each patient, and the latter could be used to print pills ad hoc that deliver the right dose in a single, easy to administer, once daily pill.
All information presented derive from public source materials.
Watch this TED talk video
You can learn more about the numerous potential pharmaceutical applications for 3D printing in this short TED talk video. The featured speaker, Dr. Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow, discusses how eventually we may be able to print our own medicine using chemical inks.