How Does Colour Measurement Helps in Drugs Counterfeiting?

Reviewed by Anurag Mishra (Sr. Technical Consultant)

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Drugs counterfeiting is a serious problem with which WHO and the whole industry are dealing. Counterfeit medicine is the fake medicine that might have a wrong composition or inactive ingredients. Fake drugs look like real medicine but do not have the right amount of dose like real medicine or have substandard composition. They can be really harmful to health and of course, an illegal practice. Since 2010, the FDA has traced almost 1400 cases of severe aftereffects of consuming fake drugs. With this, the seriousness of the issue can be estimated.

FDA is quite proactive and strict when it comes to fake drugs. With the good penetration of internet in our lives, the fake drugs came into circulation. WHO approximates that nearly 50% medicines sold via digital channels are fake, which is why they have a considerable difference in prices than the retail store. Here, the consumer cannot be blamed for using duplicate drugs, but they either are not aware or educated about this illegal practice. We can also say that being pharmaceutical a health care development industry, consumer lives in an impression that regulatory authorities keeping a strong check on the malpractices.

A consumer is certainly ill-equipped to differentiate the real drugs and duplicates. But manufacturer and regulatory authorities can take some good steps to curb this practice. In fact, they are already doing a lot in this regard. For manufacturers, who deal at global level believes that it is certainly impractical to scan every batch for duplicity. If manufacturer or shipping inspectors plan to strategize to fight the practice, the cost and infrastructure become very expensive. For an instance, we assume that manufacturer is ready to invest money, he first has to deploy trainers to educate operators to leverage the technology. This not only increases the cost of the cycle but the time of delivery will increase to many folds.Portable pharmaceutical colour measurement devices can be adopted as a substitute of complex technologies. Portable spectrophotometers and colorimeters are good options. These devices work on the simple principle of spectrophotometry. They are smart devices to analyse the colour of the objects. Pharmaceutical companies are very cautious when it comes to the colour coding of drugs. Frequent changes in the colour of drugs or packings may confuse the consumer about the sanity of the drug. In fact, this colour coding is documented and does not implement changes easily and it is a part of their quality control and patent earning process. The chemical composition of the medicine impacts its colour, sometimes additives are also used to differentiate it from rest of the product. When this colour deviates from rest of the batch, pharmaceutical colour measurement determines the difference and gives data to QC managers to control the quality check process.

Which devices can help fighting against drug faking racket?

Spectrophotometer – Testronix offers 2 models of a spectrophotometer for comparison of medicines. Both the models are equipped with high-end technology to test sample in liquid, solid and powder form. The device has an incident LED light. This incident light is made to fall on the surface of the test sample. The luminance gets separated as per the certain wavelength interval. A group of sensors capture the reflected luminance and analyse it to give equivalent values in the form of ?E having values of L, a, b. It also measures the spectral reflectance curve to easily assess the colour matching parameter. Thus, generating real factors of colour formula.  There are certain precautions that need to be taken while measuring colour values. The surface of the test sample must be flat. Otherwise, the external light will interfere with the incident light and thus distort the whole calculation.

Colorimeter – In general, it is believed that spectrophotometer and colorimeter do the same job, which is not true. There is a huge difference in the observations taken, which only a colour manager can understand. Colorimeter determines the wavelength absorbed by a solution. It is the perfect device to work with liquids. Usually bench top models are available for the colorimeter. Testronix offers hand held portable models, which makes it possible for the operator to measure the difference during the production cycle or on the manufacturing line. This device is operated by an algorithm to deliver very fast and accurate test results. Ergonomically designed for easy operation, this device gives high performance and accurate observations. In this device also, it is important to take ample of precautions while making observations. The size of aperture plays an important role in accuracy. The larger the aperture is, the better the observations are.

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