3D Printers That Can Print Out Pharmaceuticals Are In Sight

Recently the idea of printing out pharmaceuticals with 3D printers, like this one for under $1000 reviewed by our own M. Krutzler, has been advanced by Professor Lee Cronin. A modified 3D printer has been used to not only print out simple drugs but also their container, allowing immediate use after printing is complete. While the professor would ultimately like to start out the process with Hydrogen, Carbon, and Oxygen, he is currently settling for basic compounds which can be combined to produce more complex molecules. He points out that it should be possible to print out any organic molecule with a relatively small number of “inks”.

 

The introduction of such a machine would forever change our ability to fight off disease. Such a device would enable poor nations to be able to print out needed drugs locally, instead of having them shipped overseas. This would enable the drugs to be given to those that need it quickly and without having to keep large, expensive stockpiles of drugs in storage where they might spoil. This could also help battlefield medicine. If you’ve ever seen a medic’s pack, you know that it’s loaded with dozens, if not hundreds of different drugs, bandages, and equipment. If these could be printed out in a machine that could easily fit in a jeep, then there are greater chances that what is needed will be available. 3D printers could also be used on space missions, where cargo storage is limited. This would not only allow for better treatment on long duration space flights but also a weight reduction which would lower costs or increase speeds.

3D printing would not only allow for basic printing of drugs, it would also allow the drugs to be printed in specific formations, such as in time-release pills. This includes the printing of catalysts into the walls of the containers which can allow more complex chemistry to take place and thus more drugs can be synthesized. Being able to regulate the manner in which drugs react with each other allows for complex chemistry to take place in a precisely computer controlled manner, allowing for a high level of fault management. Since the instructions for printing a drug would simply consist of a file, drugs could be transmitted through the internet to anywhere they are needed. New drugs to fight new strains of disease could be transmitted around the world in a matter of seconds. This would also eliminate the market for counterfeit drugs, while making specific drugs that are not manufactured in quantity available to those with uncommon disease.

This new method of printing out drugs may have a global effect that few technologies have been able to produce. By using common components, the price of high cost drugs could easily be cut down to reasonable prices. The ability to produce the drugs at the point of need also reduces the cost due to eliminating the cost of shipping and stocking. Battlefield and spaceflight casualties could be reduced while improving quality of care. Indeed, global pandemics could finally be effectively fought which could possibly mean millions of lives saved. It is the common person that would most likely benefit from this type of invention while at the same time corporations that fund research for this technology are sure to reap grand profits.

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