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14 November 2016

3D printing technology "could disrupt pharmaceutical industry supply chains"

Content team

Traditional pharmaceutical industry supply chains could be significantly disrupted by the recent proliferation of advanced 3D printing technology, according to an industry expert.

International pharmaceutical supply chain professional Rajesh Pednekar has suggested that the ability to create tailored treatments outside of a factory environment will result in significant changes to the way medicines are produced and distributed on a global basis, reports Pharmabiz.

The development of more affordable consumer-grade 3D printers has made it possible for on-demand drug-printing facilities to be introduced by clinics and pharmacies, or even in patients' homes, to allow tailored dosing regimens to be produced.

Earlier this year, the US Food and Drug Administration gave its first ever approval to a 3D-printed drug with the ratification of the epilepsy therapy levetiracetam, also known by its brand name Spritam. The launch of this product lays the foundation for 3D-printed drugs to enter the mainstream.

The advent of this technological approach has a number of knock-on effects for supply chain professionals, as companies will be able to move away from large-scale industrial manufacturing towards low-volume production of a wide range of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) on an on-demand basis.

Mr Pednekar said: "For the last few decades, we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to patients. 3D printing at point of demand means that, for the first time, with this process we can produce tablets much closer to the patient, thus disrupting the pharmaceutical supply chain involving three major components - manufacturing of the raw material (API) and formulations; distribution up to the dispensing point; and dispensing to the end user."

As 3D printing capabilities evolve further, safety and regulatory concerns around these therapies will be addressed, while the falling cost of the technology may provide companies that are among the first to introduce 3D printers to their supply chain with an important competitive edge.

Content team, Bureau van Dijk

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