Saturday Science Exploration Series: Finding Fake Drugs


Location: Room 101, Jordan Hall

Marya Lieberman, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Finding Fake Drugs

In the United States, we trust that the medicine we buy is high quality. But most people in the world cannot make that assumption. In many countries, the technology and regulatory processes needed to assure a safe drug supply are lacking, and unscrupulous sellers know there is little chance of getting caught. Desperately sick people who try to buy pharmaceuticals in many developing countries face a 10-30% chance of getting a substandard or falsified product, which might contain flour or aspirin instead of a lifesaving antibiotic. A team of chemists and computer scientists at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College began to ask whether a new approach might improve the odds of finding fake drugs. We designed an inexpensive paper test card that can quickly test pills and tablets, and we are using these tests in Africa now. In this talk, I’ll focus on how work done by the undergraduates and high school students on the project team is contributing to solving this global problem.