Now that the US has approved a 3D-printed drug, pharmaceuticals companies in the UK are hoping their patents will be next – from the pyramid-shaped pill-makers to the man who has done for drugs what Apple did for music

With architects printing lumpy plastic houses, fashion designers printing oddly-shaped dresses and food companies printing dodgy-looking hamburgers, the hype around 3D printing can often seem like a novelty. But news that the world’s first 3D-printed drug has just been approved suggests that, beyond the realm of personalised plastic trinkets, the technology still has a huge amount to offer.

Developed by Ohio-based pharmaceutical company Aprecia, Spritam levetiracetam is a new drug to control seizures brought on by epilepsy. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration this week, it employs the company’s trademark “ZipDose” technology, which uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill. Its structure means the pill dissolves more quickly on contact with liquid, making it much easier to swallow high doses than a conventional tablet.

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The first 3D-printed pill opens up a world of downloadable medicine