Counterfeit Drug Detection

Region: Haiti
Purdue Collaborator: College of Pharmacy, Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Science (BIRS) Center

group of students in the lab looking at camera and computer

The Challenge: Access to safe, quality medication in developing countries

The selling of Spurious, Fake, Falsified, and Counterfeit (SSFFC) drugs in Tanzania poses a major problem. It is common for drugs to be sold by vendors in markets throughout Tanzania; however, these drugs are often spurious, fake, falsified, or counterfeit. These drugs being sold mimic the size, shape, and packaging of genuine drugs without offering either the desired efficacious effect or the efficacious effect to the extent that non-SSFFC would normally. These SSFFC drugs waste resources, put individuals at risk of continued illness and discourage individuals from purchasing genuine and life-saving medications. With the research being conducted by this Global Development Team (GDT) for project partners at the Kilimanjaro School of Pharmacy (KSP), it is desired to develop a universal method for distinguishing between SSFFC and non-SSFFC drugs in Tanzania.

Group of students running an experiment

The Purdue Innovation: Detection of SSFFC Drugs

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) is used to compare samples of drugs to standards to test for the presence of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of each drug. Various solvent and buffer solutions were researched and chosen with the hopes of simplifying the method and easing the implementation in Tanzania while still allowing for the testing of many drugs.  Using the pure component of each drug obtained from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), chromatograms have been collected from HPLC experiments utilized as standards for the project. So far, this research has allowed the team to confirm the feasibility of using HPLC to distinguish between SSFFC drugs and the genuine drugs and to develop preliminary methods for extraction and analysis of five most commonly used medications in Tanzania which also happen to be the ones most commonly sold as SSFFC. Current methods to combat the SSFFC drug problem are selective to the pharmaceutical ingredient being tested and not universal.

The team has developed training materials for the project which was implemented in its first stages at KSP in August of 2015. Continued research will be completed to further simplify the methods and make this project even more comprehensive for a variety of commonly counterfeit medications.

The Partners:

Purdue University, Kilimanjaro School of Pharmacy (Moshi, Tanzania), St. Luke's Foundation

  • Stephen Byrn, Charles B. Jordan Professor of Medicinal Chemistry,
  • Kari Clase, Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Biotechnology Program,
  • Kilimanjaro School of Pharmacy (Moshi, Tanzania)
  • St. Luke's Foundation

Project Website