PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 19, 2012 In a thrust against the major problem of counterfeit medicines sold in developing countries, which causes thousands of illnesses and deaths annually, scientists today described development of a simple, paper-strip test that people could use to identify counterfeit versions of one of the most-frequently faked medicines in the world.
Their report on an inexpensive test to identify fake tablets of Panadol was presented here at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Panadol is one of multiple brand names used abroad for the pain-and-fever-reliever acetaminophen, most familiar in the U.S. as Tylenol. The scientists emphasized that no such problem exists with Tylenol or other acetaminophen products marketed in the U.S.
However, Toni L. O. Barstis, Ph.D., a chemistry professor and leader of the research team at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind., said that ersatz Panadol and other counterfeit brand-name acetaminophen products are the tip of the iceberg in a wider problem of fake drugs sold in developing countries.
"Panadol long has been among the most common, standard pain-relieving drugs counterfeited around the world," Barstis said. "But the problem has taken on a troubling new dimension. In the past, you could just look at the labeling and packaging and know if it was counterfeit. Now, they do such a good job with the package design it's hard to determine whether it's a package of the genuine medicine or a fake that contains no acetaminophen or even ingredients that may be harmful."
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 10 percent of the drug supply in developing countries consists of counterfeit medicines, causing thousands of deaths every year. Problems have been documented, for instance, in Kenya, Nigeria, India, Vietnam and Panama. Many of the deaths occur among people who unknowi
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