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White Paper

Surface Analysis Exposes Counterfeit Medicines

Surface Analysis is assisting the pharmaceutical industry in a number of ways, including for example the optimisation and acceleration of new product development, evaluation of product and packaging stability, rapid identification of trace contamination and quality assessment of new manufacturing processes. And it is certain that Surface Analysis can illuminate much more about processes, and even origins, in this sophisticated marketplace - including by helping detect counterfeits. 

Developments at the forefront of Surface Analysis technology are so powerful that it is enabling an independent UK research centre to materially assist pharmaceutical companies in their battle against counterfeit drugs.

Not only does this technology - the latest in X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToFSIMS) in particular - afford a means of analysing the composition of various pharmaceuticals, recent work has also shown that it can even determine differences in the manufacturing processes involved, enabling the identification of previously undetectable chemical copies.

Traditionally, one thinks of Surface Analysis as being concerned principally with the physical properties of surfaces - flatness, roughness, colour, reflectivity and so on. The state-of-the-art in this area is '3D non-contact profiling', where white light interferometry techniques allow examination of ‘microfeatures’. Areas from a few square microns up to the centimetre scale can be analysed with nanometre resolution.

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