Exploring the Crossroads of Pharmaceuticals and 3D Printing: Novel Advances in Weight Loss Medications and Medical Devices

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Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi discuss the impact of 3D printing in relation to weight loss drugs.

A recent article published by the Financial Times (FT) focused on weight loss medications and the pharmaceutical firms that produce these. Such drugs, often labelled as treatments for obesity, have evolved into a significantly profitable industry.

The article put a spotlight on Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk. Eli Lilly is the pharmaceutical company responsible for Mounjaro, an injectable diabetes drug that has showcased promising clinical trial results for aiding weight loss. Novo Nordisk is known for Ozempic, a popular diabetes drug, recognisable for its memorable ad jingle and its weight loss benefits.

Both Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have jointly invested around US$3.5 billion this year in the research and development of weight loss and obesity medications. One strategy undertaken by such companies, for instance Novo Nordisk, is acquiring specialist obesity medication producers like Inversago. This acquisition was motivated by Novo Nordisk’s commitment to develop a novel, receptor-based treatment for obesity, diabetes, and related complications.

We have covered hospitals and 3D printing, medtech and 3D printing as well as bioprinting. But the issue of weight loss is a concern many people can relate to, and we see a way in which 3D printing can help.

Initially, reactions from the medtech, bariatric surgery, food and beverage, and restaurant and hospitality industries were negative. They claimed that with all the emphasis on weight loss, people would be hesitant to spend money on food and dining. But the truth is that people who receive treatment for diabetes and weight loss can then dine at restaurants and savor some of their preferred foods and beverages as they will be on treatment.

Concerning medtech and surgeries, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) CFO, Joseph Wolk, has pointed out that the use of these drugs could eventually make obese patients eligible for other procedures that use J&J products, even if there is a slight dip in bariatric surgeries in the near term. These weight loss drugs may not be suitable or effective in all patients so some may still require surgery, which often necessitates specific medtech in terms of implants and devices.

Many bariatric procedures now involve adjustable gastric bands, duodenal-ileal bypass sleeves, and laparoscopy.

Even robotic surgeries are being conducted where robotic arms hold a variety of instruments like scissors, graspers and staplers, and the surgeon operates by using a computer that controls the robotic arms to perform the actual, physical surgery.

Many of these items could potentially be 3D printed, such as laparoscopic cameras, bypass sleeves and even parts of the gastric bands.

Furthermore, weight loss drugs are often prescribed pre-operatively and post-operatively for other surgeries, such as knee and hip, to reduce the weight load on the joint for better healing.

Medication and 3D Printing

Many weight loss drugs have the dual purpose of treating other conditions such as diabetes. It’s common for individuals who need weight loss medication to also have other health issues, for example, high cholesterol or blood pressure. In these cases, the patient may be required to take multiple doses from multiple pills.

3D printers are being utilized to create pills for patients dealing with numerous illnesses. These pills have different compartments for different medications to minimize the number of pills patients need to take daily, and they have different release profiles to better manage drug administration. Many compounding pharmacies are attempting to implement this technology. We have previously discussed reshoring big pharma and 3D printing on Fabbaloo.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, which is now a permanent feature, is available for businesses that are involved in the creation of new or enhanced products, methods, or software.

Utilising 3D printing can significantly increase a company’s eligibility for R&D Tax Credits. The salaries of technical personnel engaged in the design, examination, and alteration of 3D printed prototypes can be accounted for as a proportion of the time qualified for the R&D Tax Credit. Similarly, the time devoted to incorporating 3D printing hardware and software, when used as a technique for improving a procedure, is considered an eligible action. Lastly, when utilising 3D printing for modelling and pre-production, the expense of filaments used throughout the development process can also be reclaimed.

Regardless of whether it’s used for developing and examining prototypes or for final production, 3D printing serves as a clear signal that activities eligible for R&D Credit are being undertaken. Businesses that incorporate this technology at any stage should think about leveraging the R&D Tax Credits.

Conclusion

We have heard that developed nations tend to have populations with higher rates of obesity and other related health issues. With Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly ramping up their weight loss specialization arsenal, there are more reasons to consider using 3D printers for creating pills and tablets for patients being treated for multiple health issues. In addition, not all patients will be successful on the drug treatments, so surgery is still on the table. The 3D printing industry can be in a win-win situation either way.

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