From Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic:
Over the past decade, 3-D printers have been hailed as changing everything from fashion to firearms. Now, they’re coming to the pharmaceutical business—or, at least, they seem to be.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first 3-D-printed pill: Spritam levetiracetam, a drug which can reduce seizures among epileptics. Manufactured by the American pharmaceutical company Aprecia, it’s produced not by a tableting machine, but by a special process where the drug’s active and inactive ingredients are laid down layer-by-layer.
This unusual manufacturing technique helps Spritam’s patients in particular. By building each dose individually, Aprecia says it can make each pill more porous and more potent than more traditional techniques would allow. Pills printed through the company’s special process “disintegrate in less than 10 seconds,” it says, which is unusually quick for a high-dose drug. Experts say that doctors have historically struggled to give epileptics reliable pills in the right dosages.