PADs Present Promising Aid in Battle Against Fake Antimalarial Drugs

May 30, 2013

Pictured are samples of paper analytical devices (PADs) developed by researchers at Saint Mary's College that can screen for counterfeit antimalarial drugs as well as antibiotics and antiviral drugs used to treat influenza.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Africas Malaria Battle: Fake Drug Pipeline Undercuts Progress," outlines a counterfeit pharmaceutical problem that is top of mind at Saint Marys College in Notre Dame, Ind. Chemistry professor Toni Barstis and her undergraduate students at this Catholic, womens, liberal arts college have researched and developed Paper Analytical Devices (PADs) that can screen whether an antimalarial drug is real. What they have developed, along with researchers at the University of Notre Dame, are inexpensive PADs, the size of a business card, that are simple to use and provide almost immediate results. There are two patents pending for the research.

One Congolese street peddler of the suspected fake drugs told The Wall Street Journal, I have no equipment to analyze them so I cant know if they work or not. This tool could change that. To check for counterfeit ingredients, a person simply swipes the pill onto the chemically treated PAD and dips the PAD in water. Color changes on the paper indicate both suspicious and authentic ingredients. The screening takes less than five minutes and can be done by anyone.

Fake pills often include the pain reliever acetaminophen. Its a tricky practice because the patient likely feels better after taking the pill, but the treatment is not healing the person of the disease. Because the PAD checks for the presence of acetaminophen, it can be modified to screen other counterfeited drugs like antibiotics and Tamiflu, the influenza medication.

Source: Saint Mary's College