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New technology combats global pandemic of drug counterfeiting
Date:8/19/2012

or cancer, malaria and tuberculosis, diseases that cause millions of deaths annually. The World Health Organization says that about 10 percent of medications worldwide are counterfeit. Estimates run even higher in poor, developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa, where past reports have stated that as much as one-third of tested drugs are fake. Patients in these countries often cannot afford the real treatments, and supplies of the real drugs may run dangerously low in some regions, prompting desperate patients to seek medications from shady sources.

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.

Fernndez and colleagues developed methods to finger fake anti-malarials and tuberculosis medicines and identify their ingredients. The team also distinguishes between counterfeits and drugs that may just have degraded after exposure to hot and humid conditions and those that are just not made correctly at the manufacturing plant. To do this, they use mass spectrometry (MS), a standard laboratory technology that weighs molecules in order to identify them.

"So-called ambient MS methods require much less instrument and personnel time than traditional methods, so we use them as a first pass to look at the quality of large sample sets," said Fernndez. For example, the researchers recently tested 900 samples from Cambodia in only two weeks with their rapid MS technique. This would have taken months with traditional approaches. "Suspicious samples would then be re-examined by more complex and costly techniques," he added.

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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
215-418-2056 (Philadelphia Press Center, Aug. 17-23)
202-872-6042

Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
215-418-2056 (Philadelphia Press Center, Aug. 17-23)
202-872-6293
American Chemical Society


Source:Eurekalert

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