Use of thin-layer chromatography to detect counterfeit sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine tablets with the wrong active ingredient in Malawi.Malar J. 2016 Apr 14; 15:215.MJ
Substandard and falsified anti-malarial medicines pose a serious threat to public health, especially in low-income countries. Appropriate technologies for drug quality analysis in resource-limited settings are important for the surveillance of the formal and informal drug market. The feasibility of thin-layer chromatography (TLC) with different solvent systems was tested using the GPHF Minilab in a study of the quality of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine tablets in Malawi.
Twenty eight samples of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine tablets were collected from randomly selected health facilities of four districts of southern Malawi. A mystery shopper approach was used when collecting samples from illegal street vendors, and an overt approach for the other facilities. Samples were subjected to visual inspection, disintegration testing and TLC analysis. 10 samples were further investigated according to the methods of the US Pharmacopeia using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
One sample was found to be falsified, containing a mixture of paracetamol tablets and co-trimoxazole tablets. These had been repackaged into paper strip packs labelled as a brand of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. TLC with different solvent systems readily proved that these tablets did not comply with their declaration, and provided strong evidence for the active pharmaceutical ingredients which were actually contained. Full pharmacopeial analysis by HPLC confirmed the results suggested by TLC for this sample, and showed two further samples to be of substandard quality.
Due to the absence of the declared anti-malarial ingredients and due to the presence of other pharmaceutical ingredients, the identified falsified medicine represents a serious health risk for the population. Thin-layer chromatography (TLC) using different solvent systems proved to be a powerful method for the identification of this type of counterfeiting, presenting a simple and affordable technology for use in resource-limited settings.