Simple test identifies fake tablets in minutes
Scientists have developed 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 inexpensive test to identify fake tablets of Panadol is part of a movement to combat against the major problem of counterfeit medicines sold in developing countries, which causes thousands of illnesses and deaths annually
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.
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.
Barstis' team responded to that situation with the new test for Panadol, which takes less than 10 minutes, can be done by consumers and also can be used by personnel in government regulatory agencies, clinics and hospitals.
The test consists of chemically treated paper the size of a business card. To check for counterfeit ingredients, a person simply swipes the pill over the paper and dips the paper in water. Colour changes on the paper indicate suspicious ingredients.
Barstis validated the test on 570 pills, including many with fake ingredients added by researchers. The College has applied for a patent for the test.
Barstis'team now is developing a similar test to identify counterfeit antibiotics, anti-malaria drugs, and Tamiflu, the influenza medication.
The development was presented at the 244th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.