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Faster Test Detects Fake Tamiflu Drugs
Date:4/7/2008

With counterfeiters looking to cash in on fears, Georgia team develops a 1-minute screen

MONDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- A fast method to detect fake Tamiflu, the mainstay medication for preventing and treating bird flu, has been developed to stop counterfeiters trying to make money off the demand for antivirals that fight the deadly disease.

Chemists in Georgia are scheduled to describe how Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry (DESI-MS) can determine the authenticity of large batches of Tamiflu up to 20 times faster than conventional methods during a presentation Monday at the American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans.

"It's a one-step process that doesn't require any extensive sample preparation," presenter Dr. Facundo M. Fernandez, of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement.

DESI-MS yields sample results in less than one minute. The "gold standard" for analysis uses high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), a powerful method that can take up to an hour, he said.

"This method is really targeted at screening large amounts of products" that might be expected during a pandemic of influenza, Fernandez added. "In case of a crisis, you wouldn't be able to wait an hour per sample. You'd want to screen hundreds of samples per day," he said.

When fears of a global epidemic of avian influenza first emerged in 2005, worried consumers in the United States and other countries began to horde Tamiflu, seeking prescriptions from physicians and purchasing the medication from online pharmacies.

In 2007, 86 confirmed human cases of bird flu occurred in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with 59 cases resulting in death.

Tamiflu's demand and high cost -- $6.50 a pill -- have made it a preferred target for fakes, Fernandez noted, and counterfeits have already surfaced in Chicago, San Francisco and
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