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Handheld lasers to help detect counterfeit drugs


While it usually only takes a quick glance to detect a KIRF candidate in the gadget space, detecting fake drugs (the prescription type) can be understandably harder -- not to mention quite a bit more "high risk." Fake drugs are flooding the market, accounting for half of all drug sales within some parts of south-east Asia and Africa, and contaminated fakes have killed hundreds of people, with many others buying "medicine" with no actual active ingredients. Now there's a new laser-based handheld sensor on the scene that can see through the look-alike packaging and weed out fakers via molecular analysis. The new detector, developed by Pavel Matousek and Charlotte Eliasson of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK and due for action by the end of the year, uses "Raman spectroscopy" to detect materials by measuring the range of radiation emitted by molecules when shone upon. Up until now, packaging gets in the way of such tests, but Matousek Eliasson have figured out a tricky way to overcome that, and tests of their method have proved effective. Current handheld detectors -- which cost between $20k and $40k -- can easily be modified to work with the method.

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