New technology could reduce drug counterfeiting

Facundo M. Fernández

A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers has developed a new technology that reduces the amount of time needed to check a drug sample for authenticity to reduce the proliferation of poor-quality drugs.

Facundo M. Fernández, the team’s leader, spoke at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, describing new technology that could reduce sample check time from half an hour to a matter of minutes. The team is working on a prototype of a portable and affordable device that could be used in the field, MedicalNewsToday reports.

“It would enable medical officials in developing countries to check on whether a drug for malaria, tuberculosis or other diseases is the real thing, or a fake that contains no active ingredients, or the wrong one,” Fernández said, according to MedicalNewsToday. “They could sort the good medicine from the bad immediately, without shipping samples to laboratories abroad and waiting days or weeks for the results.”

Drug counterfeiting is common in developing countries in Southeast Asia and other countries. Patients with serious diseases in such nations are at major risk for getting poor-quality drugs for treatment.

“In some of our studies, 50 percent of the drug samples from Southeast Asia have been counterfeit,” Fernández said, according to MedicalNewsToday. “And it is hard to tell from looking at the packaging. The packages look absolutely professional and authentic, sometimes right down to the hologram seal introduced to discourage counterfeiting. These are methods that let you analyze a solid sample without any significant preparation. You can take a tablet, put it in front of the instrument with an ionization source, and you get a quick snapshot of what’s in the sample. It provides a very high-throughput pipeline to identify suspicious samples quickly.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 10 percent of medications throughout the world are counterfeit.

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