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A New Method for Detecting Fake Medicines
by admin on: November 7th, 2011

An article published on ScienceDaily.com in September 2010 described a new technique that will allow customs officers, or pharmaceutical agents, to detect whether a given packet of tablets is counterfeit. These counterfeit or ???fake??? medicines are a huge business, however, many people suffer as a result. In developing countries, such as India, or countries that require large amounts of a particular medication, such as Africa, it is an extremely serious issue.

For example, consider the amount of medication shipped to Africa to treat malaria. Now, consider that up to half of that medicine is, at best, not effective, comprised of harmless ???binders,??? Or, at worst, comprised of something harmful like rat poison. Rat poisons, or other harmful substances, are added because these chemicals are inexpensive and easy to formulate into a pill. In other instances, the counterfeit pill may contain the relevant drug, but at a lower, ineffective concentration.

According to the article posted on ScienceDaily.com, the counterfeit drugs are manufactured in factories in India and China. These drugs are then sold by criminal organizations and the mafia. This new technology can detect these drugs. The device used resembles a small briefcase. The briefcase is able to expose packets of drugs to radio waves, which can elicit a unique signal. Based upon the characteristics of the unique signal, researchers will be able to determine the chemical substances that reside in the suspect medicines.

Interestingly, this technique is not necessarily new, as it has been previously used to detect bombs or other explosive devices. What had prevented this technology from being transferred over to medicine detection was insufficient development, in part related to difficulty in detecting the weak signals emitted by the chemicals of interest. In order to overcome this problem, the research group focused on solving this issue was able to develop appropriate mathematical algorithms that were able to detect the signals of interest.

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