Since its conception, the 3D printing of pharmaceuticals has been an exciting, if confusing, idea, yet to fully be put into practice. Lee Cronin, of the University of Glasgow, discussed his vision of a future in which medicines, tailored to individual patients in terms of dose and chemical make-up, would be 3D printed at a local pharmacy or even at home. Though there has been research into the ability to 3D print medicines or biodegradable 3D printed medical implants, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has announced that, in leasing a Forest Labs facility in Ohio, the company plans to produce a 3D printable, fast dissolving drug formula.
According to in-PharmaTechnologist.com, Aprecia will invest $25 million in the facility to take on 150 new employees for the production of its ZipDose products. Though the drug has not yet been approved by the FDA, it was submitted for approval in October of last year and the company hopes to obtain approval soon. ZipDose is meant to deliver the active chemicals in a drug more quickly than other over-the-counter “fast melt” pills and, according to the company, the manufacturing of ZipDose relies heavily on 3D printing.
At the Aprecia site, the company explains that, in addition to its own patents, it has exclusively licensed the Z Corp 3D printing process from MIT in order to fuse a powder, made up of a given pharmaceutical compound, using an “aqueous fluid” as a binder. Relying on this process, Aprecia claims that it can create “nano doses” of a drug, in order to target an illness with precision. As is the case with the ChefJet 3D printer from 3D Systems, which relies on the same base technology, the flavors added to the powder are as flexible as the flavors of almost any candy on the market. The website states:
Using our proprietary, computer-aided, 3DP manufacturing process, Aprecia developed the ZipDose® platform, which is designed to enable delivery of high-dose medications in a rapidly dispersing form. ZipDose® product candidates are assembled layer-by-layer without using compression forces or molds. Thin layers of powdered medication are repeatedly spread on top of one another, as patterns of liquid droplets (an aqueous fluid) are deposited or printed onto selected regions of each powder layer. Interactions between the powder and liquid bond these materials together at a microscopic level.
This platform yields highly porous structures even at high loading and doses of drug. The result is the creation of Aprecia’s unique ZipDose® product candidates that are designed to:
Rapidly disperse on contact with liquid by breaking the bonds created during the 3DP process
Support dose loading up to 1,000 mg
Allow the application of enhanced taste-masking techniques
Jennifer Zieverink, senior director of alliance management at Aprecia, says that it will be partnering with pharmaceutical and biotech company inVentiv Health to bring the product to market, when ready, “InVentiv Health will serve as the sales force for ZipDose products for a contracted period of time, Aprecia will maintain title of the products. Aprecia will supply sales representatives with live samples and ZipDose demonstrators (made at the new facility) as part of the field force deployment initiative.”
In his own lab, Cronin’s team was able to 3D print reactionware, in which different chemical compounds would be printed into separate areas of a printed container that, when combined, perhaps due to digestive acid eroding the biodegradable container, would result in a chemical reaction and the proper dose of a medicine. Other researchers have been able to 3D print implantable medicines on desktop 3D printers. In the case of a team at Louisiana Technical University, anti-bacterial or bone cancer-inhibiting drugs were fused with PLA and extruded as a 3D printable filament, which could be ingested to be dissolved by the body. Aprecia’s process adds a new method to the mix and, as a commercial entity, it’s possible that we’ll see 3D printed pharmaceuticals on the market sooner rather than later.