The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first 3-D printed pill, which is an epilepsy medication (editor's note: levetiracetam) that's specifically designed to be easier for adults and children with the disorder to swallow more easily.
"For the last 50 years we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals," Dr. Mohamed Albed Alhnan, a lecturer in pharmaceutics at the University of Central Lancashire, said via BBC. "And for the first time this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient."
Of course, 3-D printing isn't anything new. It's been used to create things like prosthetics, organs, implants and devices. Yet this is the first drug created via the technology that has been FDA-approved.
Manufactured by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, the drug called Spritam involves porous formulation that the company calls ZipDose, which disintegrates with "a sip" of liquid, making it easier to take.
"The FDA had previously approved medical devices made with 3-D printing," said Rob Stein of NPR's Newscast. "The company that makes Spritam says the 3-D-printed version of the drug allows it to dissolve more quickly, which makes it easier to swallow."
"In my experience, patients and caregivers often have difficulty following a treatment regimen," said Dr. Marvin Rorick, a neurologist at Riverhills Neuroscience in Cincinnati, in a press release.
"Whether they are dealing with a swallowing disorder or the daily struggle of getting a child to take his or her medication, adherence can be a challenge. Especially for children and seniors, having an option for patients to take their medication as prescribed is important to managing this disease."
The drug is specifically approved for the treatment of myoclonic seizures, partial onset seizures and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures in both adults and children.