Candy-coated tablets might help to identify contrafeits

Candy-coated tablets might help to identify contrafeits ...

While most of us were baking salty bread and watching Tiger King stay sane during the epidemic, UC Riverside bioengineering professor William Grover kept putting together colorful candy sprinkles on top of chocolate drops. In the process, he discovered a simple way to prevent pharmaceutical fraud.

InScientific Reports, the technique, which he calls CandyCode and uses tiny multicolored candy nonpareils as a uniquely identifiable coating for pharmaceutical products and tablets.

Millions of people are being killed by anti-counterfeit or anti-standard medicines, which could cost the world $200 billion annually. In the developing world, the World Health Organization estimates that one out of ten medical products is false.

Grovers lab has previously devised simple, low-cost solutions to ensure pharmaceutical authenticity. Other researchers have been interested in developing unique codes on medications that may be used to verify their authenticity, but all of these methods have practical limitations.

The origins of these are those colorful chocolate candies. Each candy has an average of 92 nonpareils attached randomly, and the nonpareils have eight different colors. I began noticing how many different patterns of colored nonpareils were possible on these candies, according to Grover. Obviously, the odds of a randomly generated candy pattern ever repeating itself are zero, so each candies is unique and will never be replicated by chance.

Grover proposed that the nonpareils might be applied as a coating to each pill, giving it a unique pattern that might be stored by the manufacturer in a database. Consumers might upload a smartphone photograph of a pill, and if CandyCode matches one in the database, the consumer might be confident that the pill is genuine. If not, it is possible to defraud.

Grover developed an algorithm that converts a photo of a CandyCoded tablet into text strings that are suitable for processing in a computer database and querying by consumers. Even after testing the CandyCoded pills, he found the masking effect of physical wear and tear.

I used a computer simulation of even larger CandyCode libraries to see if a company could produce 1017 CandyCoded pills for each individual person on earth, yet still capable of uniquely identifiable each CandyCoded medication, according to Grover.

Additional colorful CandyCodes might be combined with various sizes or shapes of candy nonpareils. CandyCodes might be used to verify the authenticity of other goods that are often counterfeited. Bottle caps may be coated with adhesive and dipped in nonpareils to ensure the integrity of perfume or wine, and jewelry or handbag hang tags may be coated with glitter.

CandyCoded capsules or tablets have an unexpected benefit for the consumer as well.

CandyCoded caplets were more pleasant to swallow than plain caplets, confirming Mary Poppins'' classic revelation about the relationship between sugar and medicine, according to Grover.

CandyCodes, a simple universally unique edible identifiers for verifying the authenticity of pharmaceuticals, is available here.

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