"The signals that are emitted from a chemical substance are incredibly weak! But we have succeeded in developing mathematical algorithms which allow us to capture them. We have also managed to filter out interference from metals, for example, which are often found both in explosives and in the protective packaging around tablets", explains Andreas Jakobsson.
Professor Jakobsson and his Swedish colleague Erik Gudmundson are responsible for the mathematical calculations, while their colleagues at King's College London are responsible for the chemical experiments and the development of the equipment.
The researchers were recently awarded funding from the Wellcome Trust to develop a prototype. The Swedish research group is also funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Carl Trygger Foundation.
Counterfeit drugs are usually manufactured in factories in China and India and sold by the mafia and other criminal organisations. At best the drug only contains harmless binders.
However, sometimes the manufacturers add rat poison or other cheap but harmful substances that can easily be formed into tablets. Some contain a weak dose of the active ingredient, which can be particularly harmful in the case of penicillin, for example, when it is important to ensure that all the bacteria are killed.
Some counterfeit products work, but entail a loss of revenue for pharmaceutical companies. Even if the problem is greatest in developing countries (in India, it is estimated that 15 per cent of all drugs are fake), counterfeit drugs are also found in Europe. Most of the drugs that can be purchased on the Internet are counterfeit.
|Contact: Kristina Lindgrde|
Swedish Research Council