A new device that can reveal whether a tablet is counterfeit could become crucial in the fight against fake medicines, new research has revealed.
A study carried out at Kingston University in London compared paracetamol tablets made from real medicine with tablets formed from lactose.
The tablets were then tested by a new, portable device that quickly measures the hardness of a tablet. The fake tablets were harder than the tablet with the correct amount of paracetamol, and were more difficult to crush.
Counterfeit products can already be identified by existing tests carried out under laboratory conditions by trained personnel. However, the new hand-held hardness tester can be used anywhere, offering the potential to help officials easily identify illegally imported counterfeit medicines.
In the UK alone, a five-year investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency led to the seizure of more than £1.5 million of counterfeit drugs.
The study findings, a joint effort by Kingston University pharmacy researcher Dr Reem Kayyali and Dr Tahir Nazir of biopharmaceutical firm Serentis, were presented to the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.
"Hardness and resistance to crushing provided an accurate way of detecting fake medicine, even with small differences in active ingredients," Dr Kayyali concluded.
"Is this a cost-effective device because counterfeiting is the most commom problem in developing countries as people are not financially strong to buy branded medicines? Hardness is not considered to be the only parameter for detecting counterfeiting of drugs" – Garima Talwar, New Delhi, India