Instant medicines


lots of pills with an antibiotic capsule on top

Printed pills – from the realms of science fiction to reality

Printed pills – it seems like a science fiction dream, like instant food from a tablet.

But the future is really here. Researchers say they have developed a way to print medications as they are needed.

Using a manufacturing system called Pharmacy on Demand, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers were able to make a variety of medications in as little as 24 hours.

At about the size of a refrigerator, Pharmacy on Demand was created by the brilliant minds at MIT. They envision their machine being used during an outbreak scenario or at a time when certain drugs are in short supply and won’t be created for a month or so.

Currently four medications can be created by Pharmacy on Demand: Benadryl, lidocaine, Valium, and Prozac. In only 24 hours, over 1000 doses of each drug can be created.

The new technology follows the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this year of the first 3D printed medicine – Spritam, developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals.

The Spritam tablet is designed as an “adjunctive therapy” to treat partial onset seizures and myoclonic seizures, among other conditions, the manufacturer says.

Because 3D printing can create a porous structure to its drugs, the medications will quickly disintegrate into the person’s mouth.

Speaking at the Pharmacy Business network in Melbourne last year, pharmacist Rob Sztar from Pharmactive listed 3D printed pills as one of the key future technological developments that would impact pharmacy practice.

“The product or molecular structure becomes a blueprint or recipe that is produced on demand by a 3D printer,” he said.

Sztar sees this technology as part of a move toward a virtual pharmacy setting with no physical products available on shelves, where the patient experience will be one of “a seamless workflow across devices to purchase their products.”

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