The inexpensive quick test consists of a paper card bearing twelve indicator strips. When a medicine is tested, the strips react to its various ingredients and change colours. Every pharmaceutical shows a unique colour pattern; if the test result differs from that pattern, the tested medication is likely a counterfeit.
In addition to the low manufacturing costs of ca. one dollar (around 90 euro cents), the quick test is also easy to use, according to its developer, Marya Lieberman. In order to test a pill, one simply grinds it and distributes the powder on the card. This causes a chemical reaction between the indicator paper and the medicine, leading the paper to take on the individual colour pattern.
To date, around 60 different substances can reportedly be detected with the quick test. The scientists from the University of Notre Dame help assess the results by email. The quick tests are to be used in pharmacies, above all in developing countries where traditional authentification instruments do not come into question due to their high price of approx. 30,000 US dollars (approx. 26,000 euro) per instrument.
Yet in light of the large number of illegal pharmaceuticals offered for sale, particularly online, the quick test may also find use in industrialised countries. Just last June, officials in more than 100 countries operating under the aegis of Interpol confiscated more than 12 million medicine counterfeits and took more than 5,000 illegal pharmaceutical shops offline (we reported).