Exploring the Fusion of Pharmaceuticals and 3D Printing: Breakthroughs in Weight Loss Treatments and Medical Tools

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

A recent article in the Financial Times spotlighted weight loss drugs and the pharmaceutical companies that produce these pills. These drugs, often dubbed obesity drugs, have become a lucrative business.

The focus of the article was Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk. Eli Lilly is the company responsible for Mounjaro, an injectable diabetes medication with positive clinical trial results for weight loss. Novo Nordisk is known for Ozempic, a diabetes drug notable for its memorable advertising jingle and weight loss benefit.

In the current year alone, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have invested as much as US$3.5 billion into the development of obesity and weight loss drugs. One strategy undertaken by companies like Novo Nordisk involves the acquisition of specialized obesity drug manufacturers, such as Inversago. The motivation behind Novo Nordisk’s acquisition was its goal to develop a novel, receptor-based treatment for obesity, diabetes, and related complications.

We have discussed hospitals and 3D printing, medtech and 3D printing and bioprinting. The topic of weight loss is a concern many individuals deal with, 3D printing shows promise in providing assistance in this area.

Initially, sectors such as medtech, bariatric surgery, food and drink, and restaurant and hospitality displayed negativity. Fear was that emphasis on weight loss would affect dining income. However, the perspective now is that people who undergo treatments for diabetes and weight loss also engage in dining and enjoy some of their favorite foods and beverages as they undergo the treatment.

In relation to medtech and surgeries, the CFO of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Joseph Wolk, has suggested that these drugs could potentially make obese patients eligible for other procedures that utilize J&J products, despite a possible minor decline in bariatric surgeries initially. These weight loss drugs may not be tolerated or effective for all patients hence some may still necessitate surgery, which frequently requires specific medtech in terms of implants and devices.

Currently, many bariatric procedures adapt 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

Weight loss drugs often serve multiple purposes, such as treating diabetes. Frequently, those who need to lose weight also battle other health-related issues like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. This scenario may lead to the patient having to consume a variety of medicines in multiple doses.

One solution to manage such cases more efficiently is to 3D print the medicines. Using 3D printers, pills are created for patients stricken by multiple diseases. These pills have different compartments for different drugs, limiting the total number of medicines a patient has to consume. They also have varied release profiles. This approach has led to numerous compounding pharmacies exploring the method. In previous articles on Fabbaloo, we’ve also discussed how big pharmaceutical companies are reshoring and implementing 3D printing.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, now a permanent feature, is designed for businesses that are inventing new or enhancing existing products, processes, and/or software.

Companies can increase their R&D Tax Credit by leveraging 3D printing. For instance, employee salaries involved in constructing, testing, and fine-tuning 3D printed prototypes can be accounted for as an eligible portion of time under the R&D Tax Credit. Furthermore, time dedicated to integrating 3D printing hardware and software as a means of process improvement qualifies as an eligible activity. Also, the cost of filaments used during the development stage can be claimed back.

Regardless of its utility in prototyping or final production, 3D printing is a reliable sign of R&D Credit eligible activities in progress. Companies integrating this technology at any level should think about exploiting the R&D Tax Credits.


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. Furthermore, 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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