Notre Dame helps with counterfeit drug detection in Africa

Counterfeit drugs are a growing problem globally, but according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, counterfeit drugs are a multi-billion dollar business in Africa and account for 30% of the pharmaceutical market in Kenya specifically. Counterfeit anti-malarial drugs, painkillers or antibiotics may seem to work at first, but ultimately can cause serious complications that may or may not be reversible. To combat this problem, AMPATH Consortium partner University of Notre Dame has rolled out a ground breaking technology that can detect within minutes if a drug is counterfeit.

The technology, developed four years ago is now being piloted by Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital pharmacology department. Within five minutes of spreading a pill across a Paper Analytical Device (PAD) the results will show colors on the PAD indicating what chemicals are and are not in the drug in question. Not only is the PAD is easy to use and fast, but it is also cost efficient. Each PAD costs about 20-cents to make, while current drug testing devices cost $50,000 per unit.

“At this point we have not made the device accessible to the public. However, when we validate the device and make it commercially available, the PAD will empower patients as they will have a chance to determine the quality of drugs they consume,” said Mercy Maina, Pharmacovigilance and Medication Adherence Pharmacist. “It will also give hospitals and pharmacies the ability to verify the quality of drugs they receive from their distributors. I think the PAD will give resource limited settings a fighting chance against this global health challenge.”