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: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/news_details.php?news_id=1418&year=2010 (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, Andreas.Jakobsson@matstat.lu.se
Pressofficer Kristina Lindgärde, email@example.com, +46-0709 753500
Kristina Lindgärde | idw
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy