3D-Printed Pills: Technology-Infused Public Health Solution or Gateway to Counterfeiting?

3D printer - free picture from Pixabay

3D printing, while still primarily a novel technology, is making a footprint in the food and health industries. From restaurants crafting artistic cuisine, to hospitals making more appealing pureed food for patients with swallowing difficulties, 3D printers are being tested as the latest and greatest industrial kitchen appliance.

It only stands to reason that 3D printing has found its way into other aspects of health – including the pharmaceutical industry. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first 3D printed medication that was designed to be more porous and therefore more easily digested by the body.

Currently FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) is exploring the technology to understand how it can be used to better design medications that are personalized to patients. “3D printing of drug products could offer several advantages for pharmaceutical applications…it has the potential to produce unique dosage forms with characteristics…such as instantaneous disintegration of an active ingredient, and other complex drug release profiles.”

But what does this mean for ensuring drug safety and reducing risk of counterfeit drugs being made this way? Use of digital blueprints for the chemical inks that would be verified for creating 3D-printed medications could help reduce counterfeiting, but these blueprints may then be at risk for hacking. Ensuring 3D printers have security settings will be a needed component. Only time will tell how this technology will evolve and impact the drug industry. CSIP and partners will continue to stay informed and provide resources for consumers to safely locate and obtain needed medications.

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and our 10 member companies have the shared goal of helping address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Continue to read this blog for updates on CSIP’s education, enforcement and information-sharing efforts.