November 4, 2019
Applied Spectroscopy

Evaluating low-cost optical spectrometers for the detection of simulated substandard and falsified medicines

Wenbo Wang, Matthew D. Keller, Ted Baughman, Benjamin K. Wilson

Distribution of substandard and falsified (SF) medicines is on the rise, and its impact on public health, particularly in low-resource countries, is becoming increasingly significant. Portable, nondestructive screening devices can support regulatory authorities in their defense against the spread of SF medicines. Vibrational spectroscopy is an ideal candidate due to its sampling ease and speed. In this work, five portable, among which four are considered low-cost, spectroscopic devices based on near-infrared (NIR), Raman, and mid-infrared (MIR) were evaluated to quantify active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and formulation accuracy within simulated authentic, falsified, and substandard medicines. Binary sample mixtures containing a typical API in antimalarial, antiretroviral, or anti-tuberculosis medicines were assessed. In both univariate and multivariate analyses, the API quantification performance of the digital light processing (DLP) NIR spectrometer and a handheld Raman device consistently matched or exceeded that of the other NIR spectrometers and a scientific grade MIR spectrometer. In the formulation accuracy tests, data from all devices, other than the silicon photodiode array NIR spectrometer, were able to create regression models with less than 6% error. From this exploratory study, we conclude that certain portable NIR devices hold significant promise as cost-effective screening tools for falsified and potentially substandard medicines, and they warrant further investigation and development.

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