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New Technology Combats Drug Counterfeiting

The problem is becoming a global pandemic (Aug. 19)

Drug counterfeiting is so common in some developing countries that patients with serious diseases in Southeast Asia and elsewhere are at risk of getting a poor-quality drug instead of one with ingredients that really treat their illness, a scientist involved in combating the problem said on August 19.

Speaking at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, Pa., Facundo M. Fernández, PhD, described how his team has developed technology that reduces the time needed to check a sample for authenticity from a half hour to a few minutes. They are also working on the prototype of an affordable, portable version of the device that could be used in the field.

“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 explained. “They could sort the good medicine from the bad immediately, without shipping samples to laboratories abroad and waiting days or weeks for the results.”

Fernández said new ways of identifying fake medicines are important because the problem is spreading with the globalization of pharmaceutical production, with drug counterfeiters becoming more sophisticated.

Fake medications sometimes contain the correct active ingredient, but at the wrong dose. Too much could result in an overdose and possibly death. Too little could result in drug resistance, leading to a situation where the real medication doesn’t even work anymore. Other counterfeit drugs do not contain the active ingredient at all. Still others contain toxic substances or even different drugs that could cause unexpected side effects or allergic reactions.

For more information, visit the American Chemical Society Web site.

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