Technology developed to detect fake drugs quickly

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Saturday, January 27, 2007


A recent improvement of an old technique in spectroscopy sparks hope for detection of counterfeit drugs, an article in the journal Analytical Chemistry published by American Chemical Society said. Such technique could make fake drugs detection a lot easier and faster than it is currently practiced, according to the article.

A group of scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have tested a method called spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS) on a range of over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen and paracetamol, to show how to test whether they are fake or not without destroying the packaging.

Current practice, using conventional Raman spectroscopy, in spotting fake drugs are not applicable when they are encapsulated or enclosed in bottles or blister packs. This difficulty makes analysis of suspect drug tedious as drug testers have to open the package and bring out the chemicals.

Charlotte Eliasson and Pavel Matousek tested the drugs without removing them from their packages. They then compared the result with the known characteristics of the drugs and with the result obtained using conventional method. They reported that, unlike conventional method, SORS could identify the drugs.

Eliasson and Matousek's recent paper concluded that "the new approach is particularly beneficial in situations where the conventional... method is hampered or fails because of [interfering signals] emanating from the packaging that contaminates the much weaker signals of the drug chemicals held in the product."

"These interfering signals can be effectively suppressed by SORS," the paper ended.

SORS technology is currently under development for commercial release. A company is being set up in Didcot to develop SORS for use in the anti-counterfeit industry.

The technology is also envisioned to be used to monitor drugs as they go through the manufacturing process. The technique could save the industry substantial amounts of money both from counterfeit drugs and in drug production.