Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Health officials announce purchase of three drug authentication machines

FAKE DRUGS The officials said that the near infrared technology employed by these machines represents a big improvement over current methods of detection

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ascertaining the authenticity of medication will soon be as easy as popping a packet into a box, Department of Health (DOH) officials said yesterday.

"You won't even have to remove the pill from the blister pack," said Dai Hsueh-yung (戴雪詠), section chief at the DOH's Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs (BPA).

The technology that will make this possible is called near infrared spectroscopy, and three machines worth US$10,000 each will be imported as early as this year, she said, adding that there would be one machine in northern Taiwan, one in central Taiwan and the third in the south.

Although fake pills can contain many of the active ingredients found in legitimate medication and yield nearly identical absorption spectrums, officials told the press at the bureau's year-end news conference yesterday that under computer analysis, the differences are unmistakable.

"It's like comparing braised ribs from the Ambassador Hotel and braised ribs from a night market," bureau director general Liao Chi-chou (廖繼州) said.

Officials said that the near infrared technology represented a big improvement over current methods of detection, which involve dissolving a drug in a solvent before putting the sample through a mass spectrometer.

"Along with the establishment of a comprehensive sample library of drugs, this machine is going to speed up the process of detecting fake drugs," Dai said.

However, the machines will not be owned and operated by the bureau. Instead, a non-government organization (NGO), to be named the Taiwan Medical Product Anti-counterfeit Task Force (TMPACT), would be formed later this year, officials said.

"Although I will be a member of TMPACT in my personal capacity, the machines will in no way be linked to the health department," Liao said. "We are working toward the same goals, but the TMPACT will not report to the DOH."

Though the task force could receive some government funding, its NGO status is essential to ensure that it gets the access it needs to detect fake drugs, Liao said.

"Put yourself in the shoes of a medical care provider or pharmaceutical company. You suspect that your latest shipment could contain counterfeit drugs," he said.

"As soon as the bureau gets involved, you've exposed yourself to possible legal problems. Now you can turn to TMPACT to verify the authenticity of your drug supply without having to worry about that, because they're a civic organization," he said.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top