Printing your own drugs: how should, and how can, you regulate the industry?

By | July 25, 2012
Printing your own drugs: how should, and how can, you regulate the industry?
This won't get you your gold-coated Hepatitis-killing nanoparticle. But it does promise to take care of a number of issues concerning drug accessibility and construction, assuming patent litigation and new law enformcement don't stand in the way.

One obvious path would be to legalize all drugs. Not only would that reduce drug addiction rates, but it would solve the general question on whether a drug is legal or not. But what about the potential risk to human health and life due to unknown side effects? What about inventor rights to royalties? Where and how can this be enforced if drug printing indeed becomes rampant, as music streaming has?

/cc 3D printing Geek +Nils Hitze 

Reshared post from +EuroTech

3D-Printing Your Own Drugs
by +Sophie Wrobel, +EuroTech; Germany

+Lee Cronin has come across a new application for 3D printers that has the potential to revolutionize big pharma. He wants to use 3D printers to print designer drugs. Not just that, but he has come up with a concept modular app system aimed at enabling citizens to understand how to architect and create targeted drugs.

Cronin described his vision to the Guardian as follows: 
“What Apple did for music, I’d like to do for the discovery and distribution of prescription drugs.”

How it works
Cronin’s lab features a 3D printer, the sort used in the Fab@Home project. A bathroom sealant feeds the 3D printer, which prints out reaction chambers of precisely specified dimensions, connected by tubes of different lengths and diameters. Once this miniature lab has hardened, the printer can inject the system reactants, or “chemical inks,” to trigger the sequenced reactions required to produce the target drug. As most drugs are made out of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen combined in various forms, almost anything can be made without requiring too many inks: just the ‘basic’ building blocks and catalysts, combined at will by shuffling known chemical pathways into position.

The true beauty of this system, however, is that the user can control not only the sequences and exact calibration of the inks, but can also shape the environment in which the reactions take place. This allows drug engineers to upload pre-programmed, tested blueprints to control drug producing reactions on a small scale, and allow the DIY community to actively tinker with the processes, creating new drugs without requiring the complex environment of a standard pharma lab. Creating drugs will still require deep knowledge of organic chemistry, though: there’s no way out of that boat.

Impact: profound
While it’s just a prototype, it is important to take a step back and see what this new potential could unleash. Here are just some of the implications:
• Affordable access to drugs. Empower users to construct alternate production paths for effective drugs, and the price oligarchy which is making the pharma industry so rich today collapses, and remotely-based folk will be able to access affordable medications by printing it at the nearest FabLab – or, with a bit of improvement, at a doctor visiting with a portable FabLab.
• Enabling layman innovations. With the barrier to experiment removed, DIY folk can set out mixing custom organic chemical soups. It’s alchemy revived!
• Blurring the lines between drug regulation and addiction control. With increased access to drugs as well as potentially addictive or destructive compounds, it is going to be increasingly difficult to enforce possession and production laws concerning drugs. There is also the risk of non-clinically-tested drugs being used in non-scientific contexts with unknown risks on human and animal health.

Drug labs are nothing new. Now, with 3D-printed alchemy, do we have a revolution in customized prescription drugs or an explosion of illicit designer drugs ahead of us?

Tags: #ScienceEveryday
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2 thoughts on “Printing your own drugs: how should, and how can, you regulate the industry?

  1. Ninja On Rye

    The drug printing issue throws a spanner in the works of the whole legalisation movement.
    Which generally gets by on the "government should legalise drugs, so they can tax drugs" mantra.
    Not to mention quality control and regulation.

    But once the whole minting movement comes of age, essentially you've got unregulated, untaxed home drug factories.

    Reply

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