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  • Category: Health

    How to identify fake drugs in India?

    Interested in knowing if the drugs are fake? Searching for the various differences between fake and real drugs? On this Ask Expert page find the suggested methods and resolve your query.

    I have recently read a news item about fake medicines circulating in India. No one was able to identify the fake drugs as they were packed very similar to the original manufacturers. It was identified only after the companies observed some drop in their revenues from those medicines, whose counterfeit variants are circulating in the market. Fake medicines may create some side effects instead of curing the diseases.
    How to identify counterfeit medicines in India?
    Is there a way to identify such drugs so that we can avoid taking such medicines?
  • Answers

    4 Answers found.
  • Zaman, a pharmaceutical company has made a handheld scanner. It is cheap and known as pharmaCheck. It is useful to recognise fake medicine. The samples are to be dissolved in a small beaker in the machine. The liquid then goes onto a microfluidic chip. The chip is almost the size of a postage stamp, where it combines with a molecule designed to bind solely with the drug in question. Binding sets off a fluorescent probe, whose light can be analyzed with a cellphone camera. The process reveals how much of the drug is present and how quickly it dissolves and takes 15 minutes or less.
    Another common solution is Global Pharma Health Fund's Minilab,

    always confident

  • There are some devices in use and some are in the development stage for identifying fake drugs. Some devices are costly but they give on the spot results. Zaman which was developed by a biomedical engineer is one of the affordable device. The various options are as below -

    The XT250 Material Identification System developed by XStream Systems uses X rays for seeing the molecular structure of the drug and compare it with the standard drug data base in its memory and thus identify a fake drug. It is an on the spot solution.

    Portable near infra red spectrometer RxSpec 700Z (by ASD company) also gives on the spot tests and get real-time results about fake drugs.

    Zaman portable pharmacheck scanner was developed by an biomedical engineer whose name was also Zaman. In this method the drug is mixed with a particularly designed molecule to bind it and from the flourocence generated by the binding and it's rate of dissolving the characteristics of the drug are found as whether it is genuine or fake.

    In US the FDA has developed a scanner called CD-3 which scans the sample using ultra violet to infra red light and compares the spectrum with that of the genuine drug. Though it is not commercialized but they have installed it at various airports etc.

    Knowledge is power.

  • People take medicines in total faith on the doctor and the medical company. Patients do not have any means or knowledge to identify fake drugs.

    The drugs are periodically tested by random sampling by drug control department officials through the recognised laboratories. This is a very daunting task as the number of drugs sold in the country are in many thousands, and the testing facilities are very much meagre. Moreover the results also come late which render the effort useless too as, by that time the fake medicines would have been sold out. Apart from this, the established pharmaceutical companies also do their own market intelligence and get to know what all similar medicines are marketed. They also procure such samples and test it in their laboratories and expose the fakes, more in the interest to safeguard their own business.

    Reputed and established pharmaceutical companies have their own quality control labs and these are also submitted to the statutory authorities. Hence it is more or less ensured that the drugs manufactured by such companies mostly conform to the required and stipulated quality as displayed on the label of the medicine.

    Fake medicines can be of two types (1). With much less potency due to the low quantum of the ingredients or due to the low quality of the ingredients. These do not cause much harm if they are not coming to be used in life saving emergency situations. The possibility is that it takes long time to get the result. (2) Totally fake without any of the supposed to be ingredients ,but have only the base holding material, and just placebos. These can be generally identified by experienced persons from the difference in taste, smell and reactive responses. If they are not used in serious illnesses, the doctor usually comes to know due to the lack of response to the medicine.

    One of the general ways to identify fake medicines is that they are sold in retail and wholesale at a very low price compared to the other drugs of same content and composition.(However some generic drugs can be sold at much low prices by genuine local small scale sector manufacturers due to the relatively lesser expenses for them on advertisement, logistics etc) The second clue can be the lack of effect of the medicine after the initial doses.

    Generally experienced doctors prescribe medicines of only reputed and established companies in case of serious illness even though they may be more costly. What the patient should take care is not to fall for the suggestions of alternatives by the medical shop person. if the prescribed one is not available it is better to revert back to the doctor for his suggestions for a substitute medicine.

  • Identifying fake medicines at an individual level is difficult. The only good way to identify fake medicines is by tracking the medications via barcode from point of origin to the consumer so that the route of flow can be followed. It is being done in the USA. Regional drug controller laboratories are enabled to analyze samples sent to them or samples seized from large unauthorized consignments.

    The best consumer can do is stick to the reputed company that has the orginal molecule or a standarad government outlet. If there is a wide difference in the MRP, then do not go for the cheaper option. Stick to one pharmacy wherein you know the retail seller and become their regular clients so that the chances of him selling a fake pack is less. Often when fake medicines are taken by regular patients, they'll know the difference or the medicines fail to evoke a regular typical response.

    Innovators from London have used a spectrometer (Scio) and made handheld scanners that can be used in any location. This is then connected to a andriod phone app which basically compares the spectrometer readings of the drug tested to the orginal molecule scan that is already in the database ( similar to comparing a fingerprint).

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