Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Problem of fake medicines in developing countries could be solved

Counterfeiting of drugs is a huge industry with an annual turnover of more than SEK 500 billion. In Africa the situation is extremely serious. Half of the malaria medication sold there could be ineffective or even harmful.

There is currently no good way to identify counterfeit drugs. However, researchers from Lund and the UK have now developed a technique that could resolve the situation.

In two years the researchers hope to have a prototype ready. It will resemble a small briefcase, in which a pharmacist, customs officer or pharmaceuticals agent can place a packet of tablets, without having to open the packet. After a minute or so the device indicates whether or not the medicine is fake.

“There are a number of advantages to this technique. It is not only reliable but also simple and cheap, which is a prerequisite if it is to be successfully put into use in developing countries”, comments Andreas Jakobsson, Professor in Mathematical Statistics at Lund University and one of the researchers on the project.

The technique has its origins in the research that Andreas Jakobsson’s Swedish and British colleagues usually conduct: detection of bombs and explosives. The researchers have been called on by HM Revenue and Customs in the UK to detect explosives at Heathrow Airport.

The research is based on a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance. By exposing a substance to radio waves, the spin of the atom nuclei changes briefly. When the radio pulse is over and the resonance returns to normal, a weak signal, unique to each substance, is emitted. In this way, the researchers can usually work out what chemical substances are hiding in the material.

Researchers have long known that it should also be possible to use this technique to trace counterfeit drugs, but it has not been sufficiently well developed for this purpose. However, a recent breakthrough in the Swedish-British research group’s work has changed that. Now they can also find out if a certain drug actually contains the active ingredient that the packaging claims.

“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 15–20 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.

Earlier press release from King’s College London: (only distributed within the UK).

For more information, please contact Professor Andreas Jakobsson, Department of Mathematical Statistics, +46 (0)46 222 45 20, +46 (0)730 939696,

Pressofficer Kristina Lindgärde,, +46-0709 753500

Kristina Lindgärde | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>