How breaking down a medicine to its atomic parts can help fight counterfeits

Smuggling of counterfeit and illegal drugs is a growing global challenge, involving many criminal organizations and diverting huge amounts of cash. In our recent research, We propose a new method for testing and tracing illicit counterfeit drugs. The remedy is Nuclear.

Counterfeit drugs are attractive to criminals. They have high-profit margins, with relatively little risk in terms of legal consequences. It is also quite easy to convince consumers that illegal products are genuine or convince them that they are buying an affordable and effective alternative. “

The situation is not expected to improve. In fact, Interpol has already seen an increase in counterfeit medical products COVID-19 disease. Operation Pangea XIII In March 2020, US $ 14m (£ 10.4m) was seized for the price of fake face masks, sub-standard hand sanitizers and unauthorized antiviral pharmaceutical products. They arrested 121 people, and more than 2,500 websites were taken offline.

Health is a fundamental right

From a health point of view, the main problem with illicit drugs is that they are potentially very harmful. Previous experiences with chemical analysis of these products showed us that what is stated on the label rarely occurs in the product. Illegal drugs often contain incorrect amounts of active ingredients. And the undeclared elements they contain can cause serious health problems. Some fake medicines have been found Mercury, arsenic, rat poison, and cement.

When illegal drugs are found, they need to be checked, and whenever there is a serious threat to public health, rapid early warning is given. However, this is not the only priority: the way they are tested also involves gathering information about the product’s manufacturing and supply chain. This second requirement is important for law enforcement agencies globally, for intelligence, investigation and criminal prosecution.

Creating “broad framework” methods that incorporate both of these requirements is difficult. Illegal products have a potentially high content that is related to their manufacturing. A particularly serious issue is that data sharing is very difficult in various forensic laboratories. The technologies currently being used are difficult to standardize, so laboratories in the same country – let alone in different countries – struggle to build national or international cooperation. This is known as “linkage blindness”, the inability of law enforcement to link similar unresolved crimes.

A global police tool for the global threat

To effectively protect public health and allow criminal investigations, we cannot confront global issues with local issues. Many laboratories must work together and require extensive testing methods, which are not only trying to find possible toxic chemical substances, but also find out where the seized material came from, and how it was made Was gone, share information about it.

In this regard, we recently made a proposal new approach This proved to be very promising. We got an idea Pahile studies This article was done by one of the authors. It includes a unique combination of atomic analytical techniques, especially ion beam analysis (IBA) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). The latter uses neutron and proton beams respectively, specifically to analyze every component in an invalid product of interest. This can give us a comprehensive overview of their composition, up to the atomic level.

The advantage of our approach is that it allows for rapid characterization of the chemical nature of illicit products. This includes an unprecedented assessment of people’s potential risk on health, as our method can provide early health warnings and directly quantify the amount of each element identified. We also demonstrated that data produced by various nuclear reactors can be effectively exchanged between laboratories worldwide.

To fight more criminal activities

Our research tested Viagra as it is the most widely used counterfeit drug in the world. Due to lower production costs and higher street prices, it has a larger profit margin than heroin. Also a Very low risk Legal consequences if anyone is caught smuggling it.

When we were looking for the difference between fake and original samples, our research showed promising results and this was on samples from different laboratories. In particular, the approach was found to be very flexible and can be applied to a lot of different products. These include not only medicines, but also supplements and foods, as well as illicit drugs. The approach has already been tested in Italy for illegal trafficking of cannabis, cocaine and heroin, meaning it could soon be used worldwide to find links between drugs. Other laboratories worldwide are collaborating and forming an international network.

Today, the biggest challenge in preventing the smuggling of counterfeit drugs is to implement global methods that fight the latest threats as quickly as possible. Criminal organizations are dynamic and laboratories need to be maintained. Fox Chloroquine, a fake Himalayan drug falsely believed to cure COVID-19, is already being sold In cameroon And In senegal.

In an instant, where all eyes are on the subject of drugs and vaccines around the world, further research is critically important to effectively target global criminal organizations and protect public health.chit chat

By this article Francesco Savario Romolo, A specialist in forensic science at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Université deli Study de Bergamo And Matteo Galidabino, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science, University of Northumbria, Newcastle Republished from chit chat Under a Creative Commons license. read the Original article.

Read next:

Lucid Motors Studio: A car buying experience unlike any other