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Techniques & Tools Pharma & Biopharma, Thin Layer Chromatography

Taking Down a Goliath

The story of the Global Pharma Health Fund reads like the plot of a conspiracy novel. But for its developer Richard Jähnke – winner of the 2017 Humanity in Science Award – the reality of fighting counterfeit medicine is far more prosaic. Equipped with his sling – a case full of chemicals, a basic TLC test, and a training manual – his aim is simple: to help spot fakes before they reach consumers.

Counterfeit medicines are a problem of epidemic proportions, particularly in resource-poor countries. In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported (1) that of all poor quality and substandard counterfeit falsified products, 80 percent do not contain any active ingredients, do not contain enough active ingredient, or even contain the wrong ingredients – leaving patients with drugs that are at best ineffective, and at worst potentially fatal. Complex supply chains provide too many opportunities for adulteration, while understocked labs and expensive analysis equipment only compound the problem of detection, particularly in countries with limited financial resources and patchy power supplies. What is needed is a simple, low-cost and transportable analytical toolkit to protect the supply chain – and, ultimately, consumers.

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About the Author

Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

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