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Combating Counterfeit Medicines through NIR Spectroscopy

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May 19, 2015 12:00 PM



Drug counterfeiting has become a significant issue in the healthcare community and the pharmaceutical industry worldwide. As a result of counterfeiting, patients can be threatened by substandard drug quality or harmful ingredients, and legitimate companies can lose significant revenues.

Pharma frauds are on the rise, drug industry is already polluted with counterfeits and nightmares are caused to patients, physicians and drug companies especially in developing countries which also lack the resources to combat this illegal act.

The law which circulates around counterfeiting cannot be successful without technological inventions. Several methods are already emerging and developing such as holograms, 3D barcodes, differentiated packaging, radio frequency identification, fingerprints and infrared technology.

A rapid screening technique such as near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy could aid in the search for and identification of counterfeit products. Advanced testing of this method has been done in various research facilities and clinics across the globe. NIR plays an important role in pharmacies to distinguish one product from the other of the same type.

Governments from all over the world have been trying to procure this technology because it is less expensive than other anti- counterfeiting devices but is more advanced in its own use. According to a product review conducted by The Peterson Group, near-infrared or NIR spectroscopy can determine both the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the drug, as long as there are appropriate tools and training sets are available. The technique is sensitive to both to chemical and physical nature of sample constituents and can be performed rapidly with minimal preparation whereas other processes would require large number of samples and would take a while to show results.

There are currently a few developing cities possessing such advanced technology. The list includes Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jakarta, Indonesia and Bangkok, Thailand. In the United States, the leading drug tested through NIR is Prozac, an antidepressant drug which can affect the activities of the brain. Researchers use NIR technology for tablet identification; determination of moisture, residual solvents, or active ingredient potency; the study of blending operations; and the detection of capsule tampering. NIR therefore offers an excellent opportunity for use as a screening technique to detect counterfeit samples.

Once the spectral library has been established, a process that can take one to several days, a sample can be analyzed in less than one minute. The need to reestablish the library following a significant instrument repair was one limitation of this technique. Yet, however, NIR has been proven to be aiding in a lethal combat and we greatly need this kind of assistance.

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