PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 19, 2012 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 here today.
Speaking at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, Facundo M. Fernndez, Ph.D., 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. And they are 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," Fernndez 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."
Fernndez, who is with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said new ways of fingering fake medicines are important because the problem is spreading with the globalization of pharmaceutical production ― almost like a global pandemic ― with drug counterfeiters becoming more sophisticated.
"In some of our studies, 50 percent of the drug samples from Southeast Asia have been counterfeit," Fernndez said. "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."
Counterfeiting involves all kinds of medications, from the acetaminophen used for headaches and fever (see separate press release) to lifestyle medications like Viagra to drugs f
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