Researchers Develop Fast Method to Detect Counterfeit Tamiflu

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ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology described a fast method to detect counterfeit "Tamiflu," Roche's drug for preventing and treating bird flu.

New Orleans, LA (Apr. 7)-Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA) described a fast method to detect counterfeit “Tamiflu,” Roche’s (Basel, Switzerland) drug for preventing and treating bird flu. The method uses desorption electrospray ionization–mass spectrometry (DESI–MS).

According to the researchers, DESI–MS yields sample results in less than one minute, which is about 20 times faster than conventional techniques. High-performance liquid chromatography, regarded as the “gold standard” for analysis, can take as long as an hour to provide results.

In a prepared statement, Facundo M. Fernandez, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said DESI–MS is “a one-step process that doesn’t require any extensive sample preparation.”

The DESI–MS method screens large amounts of products and would thus be useful during an influenza pandemic. “In case of a crisis, you wouldn’t be able to wait an hour per sample. You'd want to screen hundreds of samples per day,” Fernandez said.


Fernandez tested DESI–MS’s effectiveness by collecting different Tamiflu samples from online pharmacies and found all of them to contain the active ingredient.

In 2007, the World Health Organization confirmed 86 human cases of bird flu, and 59 of these resulted in death. Increased public demand for Tamiflu, and the drug’s high cost, have prompted counterfeiters to create fake versions of the drug.

The researchers describe their study as the first successful demonstration of DESI–MS’s use for Tamiflu screening. The research was presented at the 2008 American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans.