Put on the only “sugar-coated” to identify whether the pill is true or false

Chocolate (left) and medicinal capsules (right) made with colorful sugar granules (center). Image credit: William Grover/UCR

Inspired by flat round chocolate dipped in colorful sugar granules, William Grover, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, Riverside, has developed a simple way to prevent drug fraud. Known as a “candy code,” the technology uses tiny colored sugar granules as a uniquely recognizable coating for medicinal capsules and pills. The study was recently published in Scientific Reports.

Counterfeit or substandard medicines harm millions of people and cause about $200 billion in damage each year. The World Health Organization estimates that in developing countries, 1 in 10 medical products are fake.

Many researchers are interested in adding unique codes to tablets that can be used to verify the authenticity of the pills, but these protocols have practical limitations. Grover’s labs have also previously worked to ensure the authenticity of medicines in a simple, low-cost way.

He said, “The study was inspired by the colorful chocolate candy. Each candy has an average of 92 colored sugar granules randomly ‘connected’, divided into 8 different colors. I would like to know how many different color patterns there may be on these candies. ”

It turns out that the chances of a randomly generated candy pattern repeating itself are basically zero, so each candy is unique and will never be copied by chance.

This led Grover to the idea that colored sugar granules could be applied to each pill as a coating, giving it a unique pattern that drug manufacturers then store in databases. Consumers upload a photo of a pill on their smartphone and can be sure that the drug is genuine if its “candy code” matches one of the ones in the database. If not, it could be a fake drug.

To test the idea, the team applied edible cake garnish as colored particles to the Taylor capsules and developed an algorithm. The algorithm can convert a photo of a candy pill into a set of text strings to be stored in a computer database for consumers to query.

The researchers then used this algorithm to analyze a set of “candy code” photos and found that they functioned as universal unique identifiers, even after simulating the wear and tear of the tablets during transport.

“By computer simulations of a larger library of ‘candy codes,’ I found that a company could produce 1,017 ‘candy codes’ pills, enough to meet the needs of 41 million pills for everyone on the planet, and still be able to uniquely identify each ‘candy code’ pill.” Grover said.

Interestingly, “candy yard” capsules or tablets also have unexpected benefits for consumers. Grover also found that “candy yard” drugs are easier to swallow than regular medicines.

By introducing more colors or combining colored sugar granules of different sizes and shapes, one can create more unique “candy yards.” In addition to medicines, people can also use it to identify the authenticity of other products that are often counterfeited. (Source: China Science Daily Wang Fang)

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