Printing Pharmaceuticals With A 3D Printer
The technology is not out in the open, but some chatter on the net claims that in the near future pharmaceuticals can be printed with a 3D printer. There is no science fiction involved in this statement.
The benefits to the pharmaceutical companies that use 3D printing technology will be enormous. The setup for making a simple drug would cost about $100,000 for the printer and separate heads that are actuated to work in tandem with a program that has already been written.
The process would eliminate most of expensive lab equipment that is used to develop the prototype drugs and would eliminate plant equipment that costs millions in favor of 3D printers.
Initially, the pharmaceutical companies will charge more for medicine because they will claim that the costs of the printers, programming, and training for the workforce that can use the printer efficiently is a part of research and development costs. Eventually, one might expect that the cost of medicine that the average person pays will decrease because the production costs will drop as much as 80 percent using 3D printed drugs. Do not bank on this happening.
Still think that this is not possible.
Doctors have printed a heart with a 3D printer using live cells and put that heart into animals. The heart has been working for more than a year now.
The concept is really simple.
You need to have the structure of the active compound in any medicine. These are readily available in any formulary or you can get most of them from Wikipedia.
You have to have a program that will digitize the formula into code that is interpretable by the 3D printer. There are already several programs that do this.
You must have a multi-head 3D printer. This means that the printer heads are fed by different liquid or solid versions of the components of a medicine. The technology already exists to print paper, metal, plastic, and resin on one 3D printer. Temperature control of the head is the most crucial part of the operation.
You will have to have the licenses for any technically illegal components of the drug. The pharmaceutical giants already have the licenses.
You must decide on a shape of the finished pill or capsule. This construction would be fed into the program that controls the printer.
You will need an approved tubing for medical production to feed the components from a reservoir to the printer heads.
Granted 3D printer speeds are not lightning fast at present, but a 15-year-old recently developed a 3D printer that is 10 times faster than any brand name product and costs about $2000.
The technology is not getting there it already is there.
So, you may be thinking big deal the pharmaceutical companies will get richer using new low-cost technology and I will pay more for drugs that I need for my health care.
That is wrong.
There is a real movement underfoot to make the formulations for common and uncommon drugs available on the internet so that anyone can have them. If you know anything about chemistry you could construct the formula for most compounds from the material safety data sheet that all pharmaceutical manufacturers have to display on the internet.
The beauty is that you do not have to do anything illegal to print your own medicine. You can make the active components of any pharmaceutical from legally available over the counter chemicals.
Once you have the active chemical printed, all you have to do is add the fillers like buffers and a coating to prevent degradation from exposure to oxygen.
With the near time advent of affordable 3D printers that can print in a multitude of different media, anyone can make their medicine at home.
The U. S. Government may have a fit but if 10 million people are printing medicine the cost of finding, arresting, prosecuting, and jailing these people would be prohibitive. If the federal government made 3D printers illegal, then they would create a new business for the drug cartels selling printers.
The best part of the plan is that the states that charge taxes for drugs do not get taxes for drugs you print at home.
The end result might be a very sharp reduction in the income of pharmaceutical companies that would result in those companies having less influence in Congress. Medical insurance companies also have their finger in the medicine money pie as do pharmacies. Medical insurance companies would lose a fortune.
To protect yourself, you would need to get any money you have invested in pharmaceuticals or the medical industry out and put that money elsewhere.
Naturally, people will try to print illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin with a 3D printer. You might not think this is a good idea, but this development could spell the end of drug cartels.
Drug cartels could not compete on price for the costs to print absolutely pure heroin of cocaine with a 3D printer. While the cartels might adopt this method instead of the process of growing and extracting their product from plants, they could not compete with instant supply that home printing could produce.
The development of 3D drug printing would certainly kill the “War on Drugs” but the U. S. lost that “war” 40 years ago.
This video explains what has already been accomplished in printing your own drugs and gives you an idea of what the future of 3D printed pharmaceuticals is.
The benefits far outweigh the risks. The person that needs medicine to stay alive can print what they need on a daily basis with costs that are a thousandth of what each pill costs now. The pharmaceutical industry and the medical insurance industry will lose their control over people’s lives and health. The government of the United States will grow smaller as the major work of the FDA becomes obsolete.