Spectrophotometers Identify Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals With Color Measurement

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 estimated that the global market for counterfeit pharmaceuticals generated $431 billion in gross annual revenues1 for purveyors of those fake products. Since then, WHO has stopped estimating the counterfeit industry’s revenues because of the difficulties in tracking fake prescription drugs. WHO is quick to note that the counterfeit pharmaceutical problem is not confined to developing countries with lax regulations. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized more than $73 million worth of counterfeit drugs, and since 2010, the FDA has tracked and recorded more than 1,400 incidents of adverse reactions caused by counterfeit drugs2.   

 

pills
Counterfeit pharmaceutical products run rampant through internet pharmacies. Image Credit: Flickr User Carlos Lowry (CC BY 2.0)

 

The prevalence of internet pharmacies has elevated the problem to near epic proportions. WHO estimates that more than half of all pharmaceuticals sold over the Internet are counterfeit3. Consumers that buy cheap drugs online, even when their purchases are made from internet pharmacies that appear in every respect to be legitimate, are taking great risks with their own health and safety. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals might be compounded from ingredients that range from inert to harmful or adulterated. Consumers cannot be faulted for attempting to save money on prescription drugs, but they are ill-equipped to detect counterfeit products and inevitably they rely on manufacturers and regulatory authorities to keep the fakes off of the market.

 

At an extreme, regulators and pharmaceutical companies can implement plans to test batches of pharmaceuticals at various stages of the global supply chain with gas chromatography and other sophisticated technologies4. These technologies will distinguish genuine products from knockoffs, but their broad implementation is expensive and impractical. Moreover, local regulatory agencies and shipping inspectors will not have the resources or access to complex analytical tools to implement the kind of widespread screenings that are required to snag every counterfeit pharmaceutical product. A more practical option is to use portable spectrophotometers for rapid early screening of both the pharmaceuticals and their packaging as the first line of defense against counterfeit drugs.

 

Tylenol
Pharmaceutical companies can impede counterfeiters by publishing precise color profiles of their labels. Image Credit: Flickr User Austin Kirk (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color and Pharmaceutical Packaging

 

Legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers use advanced packaging with holograms, bar codes, and other features to confirm that the enclosed products are real. Packaging color is as critical an indicator of legitimacy as these advanced features.

 

Consumers generally avoid products with inconsistent or dubious packaging5, but consumers that purchase pharmaceuticals from internet pharmacies do not have the luxury of picking and choosing. Counterfeiters might take advantage of this by using cheaper printing and packaging materials. This leaves an opening for a legitimate manufacturer to publish a color profile for its own packaging. Screeners and regulators can then use portable spectrophotometers to measure a pharmaceutical product’s packaging for comparison against a manufacturer’s standard color profile. Any differences will be a first marker of counterfeiting that the regulator can then use to flag a batch for more advanced testing and verification.

 

Drug Color Consistency

 

Counterfeiters are becoming more adept at replicating the appearance of legitimate drugs, but subtle color differences between real and fake drugs are still a strong indication of a counterfeit product. Strict FDA standards on drug production result in products that have identical colors and appearances from batch to batch. Even more so than with pharmaceutical packaging, manufacturers can create color profiles for each of their products. They can then use portable spectrophotometers for quality control and assurance during a manufacturing process. Regulators can also use these devices to sample drug products in supply chains in order to weed out any products that are outside of that profile. Without their own spectrophotometers, counterfeiters will be unable to precisely match the exact profiles of the drugs they are emulating. Certain spectrophotometers can detect differences on UV wavelengths, which would be invisible to the naked eye. This makes color profiles even more difficult to fake without instrumental aid.

 

Using HunterLab’s Devices to Detect Counterfeit Drugs

 

HunterLab has long been at the forefront of providing appearance and color testing instrumentation to the pharmaceutical industry.  To measure both opaque substances at UV wavelengths, regulators can use the UltraScan Vis or Pro.

To learn more about which instrument would be ideal for your production process, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

  1. “Deadly fake Viagra: Online pharmacies suspected of selling counterfeit drugs,” 2015,  http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/health/counterfeit-medications/
  2. “Counterfeit Drugs Are Flooding the Nation’s Pharmacies And Hospitals,” 2016, http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2016/counterfeit-prescription-drugs-rx.html
  3. “Rise in online pharmacies sees counterfeit drugs go global,” 2015, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)00394-3/fulltext?rss%3Dyes
  4. “Countering the Problem of Falsified and Substandard Drugs,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202524/
  5. “Combat counterfeiting with packaging design and color consistency,” 2016, http://www.packagingdigest.com/packaging-design/combat-counterfeiting-with-packaging-design-and-color-consistency-2016-02-17

Mouthwash Manufacturers Rely on Spectrophotometers for Color Quality Control to Ensure Brand Consistency

The color of mouthwash has nothing to do with its efficacy. It is not the byproduct of any medicinal ingredients or flavors, nor do mouthwashes of different colors vary in substance. So why do mouthwash manufacturers bother adding coloration to their recipes? Branding.

 

mouthwash on shelf in store
What color does your mouth smell like? Image Credit: Flickr User danjo paluska (CC BY 2.0)

 

Color Is Inextricable From Brand for Mouthwash Companies

 

The bright blues, greens, yellow, and purples of various mouthwashes are intended to differentiate similar products in the eyes of consumers. While they may have the same active ingredients, differently colored mouthwashes look like separate products. The colors of mouthwash brands are also linked to unique flavors and scents. This affects customer choice in a number of ways.

 

For new customers, bold, eye-catching colors attract attention and lend an impression of potency. Particularly strong colors can be linked unconsciously with strong effects. Also, most people have preferences for certain colors (I happen to like yellow and green). Without more compelling reasons to prefer a particular brand, customers may simply pick the color they like the best. Once they’ve picked this color, unless the product is unsatisfactory for some reason—which is doubtful, as one is much the same the other—they’re likely to pick the same color the next time. This preference will be reinforced by any perceived or actual differences in flavor or scent.

Swish mouthwash
Customers develop loyalties towards particular mouthwash colors. Image Credit: Flickr User the impulsivebuy (CC BY 2.0)

 

Quality Control Processes Assure Mouthwash Brand Consistency

 

This effect is lost if manufacturers alter the color of their products, or if their colors lack consistency from batch to batch. For these reasons, manufacturers employ stringent color quality control procedures at their production facilities. Samples of each batch, or enough batches to generate statistical reliability, are measured in test labs before the mouthwash is bottled. Measurement is done at this stage to prevent any extra loss of revenue in bottling materials, bottling machine energy, or delivery costs. Any variation detected at the test lab stage can be corrected by mixing in additional colorants while the mouthwash is still in the vat.

 

For this purpose, most manufacturers have long since jettisoned human observers. Even when comparing mouthwash samples to established standards, human observers are subjective in their analysis of color. Different observers can see different colors. Also, the same observer can see different colors based on lighting, sample size, and even mood. Given the large volumes of mouthwash produced, this subjectivity can result in inconsistent coloration, perhaps even in bottles sitting next to each other on the shelf. As color is such an important factor in consumer choice, this inconsistency could not be allowed to persist.

 

mouthwash
Color consistency is important when producing large volumes of mouthwash. Image Credit: Flickr User Jae-sun Gim (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Transmission Spectrophotometers Offer Reliable, Objective Color Analysis

 

As a result, manufacturers have turned to spectrophotometers, objective color analysis instruments, to measure their mouthwash. These instruments report color results numerically, and their results are precise. This prevents any inconsistently colored batches from leaving the vat. Not every spectrophotometer measures color in the same way, which is why you should use a transmission spectrophotometer to accurately measures transparent liquids like mouthwash.

 

With over six decades of experience developing spectrophotometers for transparent liquids, HunterLab has engineered a series of solutions ideal for the mouthwash industry. For companies that only manufacture transparent liquids, like mouthwash, and wish to save space in their laboratory the Vista color and haze transmission spectrophotometer is a sound color measurement solution. Much smaller than earlier spectrophotometers, and more affordable, Vista is a top-of-the-line solution for transmission color analysis. For companies testing the color of mouthwash and other opaque liquids or solids, the UltraScan series of spectrophotometers is capable of reflectance and transmittance measurement. While larger than Vista, UltraScan spectrophotometers eliminate the need for a separate instrument to test the color quality of the company’s opaque products. To learn more about which instrument would be ideal for your production process, contact our friendly, professional sales force today.

 

Going Green with Color Technology: Variation in Plastics Makes Sorting Recyclables Easy

While various colors are visually appealing, there is a more important function to different hues: color-coding plays an important role in plastic recycling.

Color variation among plastic products may provide aesthetic appeal, but it is also is an important part of a color-coding system intended for a more eco-friendly world. Optical sorting has been an effective method of recycling and sorting in the glass industry for quite some time, and with an increased need for recycled plastic products, color sorting has now become the norm in the plastic industry as well.

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Colorimetric Scores: Making Sure Your Tomatoes Make the Grade

The bright red color of the tomato can tell us a lot about quality and nutrition.

Color terminology has been changing; what we once called red is now referred to as magenta. Well, you know how the song goes: “you say tomato; I saw tomahto.” However, when it comes to color there is only one standard by which to abide.

Colorimetric scores are an important component for quantifying color in order to create the measurements needed to relate product quality to a grading scale. These scores have been developed through extensive research and analysis of tomato products at various stages of production to ensure color consistency and maturity. Various colorimetric methods and spectrophotometers have been used to revolutionize the tomato industry and lead to higher standards in all tomato-based products. Continue reading

Color Psychology: Subliminal Messaging, Courtesy of Your Local Pharmacy

pill color comic
What are your pills telling you?
Image Source: www.glasbergen.com

Numerous studies have recently been conducted regarding color psychology. Color can tell us a lot about who we are, how we are feeling, and the choices we make. Why do people prefer their lemonade pink? And why is that “little pill” blue? Well, it is certainly not by accident. As human beings, there is a direct correlation between our senses and color. Color psychology not only impacts our internal thought processes, it also has a great deal of influence on consumerism — especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals. All major drug corporations know that color is one of the most important ingredients in prescription medications. That is why they depend on the highest levels of color technology and spectrophotometry in order to maintain consistency and accuracy in their product. Continue reading

Color Variations in Plastics: You Say Lime, I Say Chartreuse — What Is It Really?

Building colors
Many variables affect color and visual appearance. Light, angle, and/or background all affect visual analysis and cause major variations in color perception.
Image Source: Daniel Christensen via wikimedia.org

The human eye is a remarkable tool in identifying color variations. In fact, the human eye can actually distinguish over 7,000,000 different color variations in our known spectrum of colors. Science and technology have explored the eye-to-brain connection of how light is absorbed and reflected, and these results have shown that the human eye is capable of distinguishing even the slightest deviations in color.

Despite how amazingly accurate and complex human vision can be, the eye and the brain do have their limitations. Optical inputs of color variations are altered by a variety of causes that lead to problems with visual analysis, especially in plastic manufacturing. Manufactures have to be incredibly precise when creating their products, to account for the variations in the way we see things, and to mitigate against their negative effects. Spectrophotometry tools are incredibly useful in this process.

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