Detecting Fake Pills With Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance

A technique once considered for explosives detection might save more lives if used to verify the integrity of medicines


10 min read
Illustration of a half blurred pill.
Photo: Adam Voorhes/Gallery Stock

When you purchase medicine at the drugstore, you assume that it’s what you think it is and that the active ingredient in the drug is present in the specified concentration. Unfortunately, your assumption might be all wrong. Counterfeit and substandard medicines have become widespread, particularly in low- and middle-income countries with weak regulatory systems. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of 10 medicines sold in developing countries should be considered “substandard.” Your drug could even be an outright fake.

“But I live in the United States,” you may say. “The medicines at my pharmacy are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it must be the genuine article.” Unfortunately, even the United States and other higher-income countries aren’t immune to this scourge. Since 2012, smugglers have been caught selling fake drugs to more than 3,000 doctors, clinics, and hospitals across the United States.

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"SuperGPS" Accurate to 10 Centimeters or Better

New optical-wireless hybrid makes use of existing telecommunications infrastructure

3 min read
illustration of man looking at giant smart phone with map and red "you are here" symbol
iStock

Modern life now often depends on GPS(short for Global Positioning System), but it can err on the order of meters in cities. Now a new study from a team of Dutch researchers reveals a terrestrial positioning system based on existing telecommunications networks can deliver geolocation info accurate to within 10 centimeters in metropolitan areas.

The scientists detailed their findings 16 November in the journal Nature.

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Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

This is a guest post in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. It is adapted from an essay in the July 2022 IEEE Electron Device Society Newsletter. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.

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NYU Biomedical Engineering Speeds Research from Lab Bench to Bedside

Intensive clinical collaboration is fueling growth of NYU Tandon’s biomedical engineering program

5 min read

This optical tomography device that can be used to recognize and track breast cancer, without the negative effects of previous imaging technology. It uses near-infrared light to shine into breast tissue and measure light attenuation that is caused by the propagation through the affected tissue.

A.H. Hielscher, Clinical Biophotonics Laboratory

This is a sponsored article brought to you by NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.

When Andreas H. Hielscher, the chair of the biomedical engineering (BME) department at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, arrived at his new position, he saw raw potential. NYU Tandon had undergone a meteoric rise in its U.S. News & World Report graduate ranking in recent years, skyrocketing 47 spots since 2009. At the same time, the NYU Grossman School of Medicine had shot from the thirties to the #2 spot in the country for research. The two scientific powerhouses, sitting on opposite banks of the East River, offered Hielscher a unique opportunity: to work at the intersection of engineering and healthcare research, with the unmet clinical needs and clinician feedback from NYU’s world-renowned medical program directly informing new areas of development, exploration, and testing.

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