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NEWS


RESEARCH BREAKtHRoUgH foR PHARMACY


Information on significant properties of pharmaceutical tablets, such as their mechanical strength and dissolution, can now be obtained without resorting to the conventional, time-consuming and destructive testing methods, according to a new study completed at the University of Eastern finland.


A new structural descriptive parameter based on terahertz (tHz) time-domain techniques allow for a non-invasive detection of pharmaceutical tablet parameters, constituting a research breakthrough in the field of pharmacy.


the study focused on non-contact quality inspection of pharmaceutical tablets using terahertz time-domain techniques. terahertz radiation represents the far end of the infrared band and it has unique properties that permit a quick and safe identification of pharmaceutical tablet properties. Using tHz radiation, which is invisible and safe for human beings, it is possible to determine what a tablet is made of, including the nature of its constituents and how they are arranged. to this effect, the study has developed a novel structural descriptive parameter for pharmaceutical tablets, addressing the orientation of their microscopic structure. the parameter provides information on the pattern of arrangement of the various particulates as well as air pores within a tablet.


this fast and non-destructive screening method has significant applications in the inspection of the quality of individual tablets during production, providing information on the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient, tablet porosity and weight, among other things.


the doctoral dissertation by Prince Bawuah, MSc, entitled ‘terahertz time-domain study on selected parameters of pharmaceutical tablets using effective medium approximation’ is available for download at: http://epublications.uef.fi/pub/urn_ isbn_978-952-61-2311- 0/urn_isbn_978-952-61-2311-0.pdf


62 - PHARMACY In foCUS


PARACEtAMol StUDY SHEDS lIgHt on lIVER DAMAgE


Scientists have gained new insight into how the common painkiller paracetamol causes liver damage. their findings may offer valuable insights into poisoning caused by an excess dose, which can be difficult to treat and may prove fatal.


the discovery could inform research into therapies to counteract harm caused by the drug, which is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the Western world.


Scientists at the University of Edinburgh studied the impact of paracetamol on liver cells in human


and mouse tissue, and tests showed that in certain settings paracetamol can damage the liver by harming vital structural connections between adjacent cells in the organ.


When these cell wall connections – known as tight junctions – are disrupted, the liver tissue structure is damaged, cells are unable to function properly and they may die.


this type of cell damage is known to occur in liver conditions including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer, but until now it was not linked to paracetamol toxicity.


Researchers aim now to develop a reliable method of using human liver cells as an alternative to animal testing.


they then will seek to examine how varying paracetamol doses and timescales affect toxicity in the liver, and identify potential targets for new drugs.


the study, involving researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and oslo and the Scottish national Blood transfusion Service, was published in Scientific Reports.


QUEEn’S ExPERt REVEAlS HIDDEn DAngERS of fooD SUPPlEMEntS


the survey raises serious questions about the safety of slimming supplements containing Sibutramine. Sibutramine was licensed as the medicine Reductil until 2010, when it was withdrawn across Europe and the US due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with the use of the drug.


Many herbal supplements contain hidden pharmaceutical ingredients that could be causing serious health risks, according to a Queen’s University expert.


Emeritus Professor Duncan Burns, a forensically experienced analytical chemist from Queen’s University Belfast’s Institute for global food Security, has been working with a team of specialists on a peer-reviewed paper to examine the detection of illegal ingredients in the supplements.


the research found that over-the- counter supplements - commonly advertised to treat obesity and erectile dysfunction problems - are labelled as fully herbal but often include potentially dangerous pharmaceutical ingredients, which are not listed on the label.


‘our review looked at research from right across the globe and questioned the purity of herbal food supplements,’ said Professor Burns, who is working to advance knowledge in this area.


‘We have found that these supplements are often not what customers think they are - they are being deceived into thinking they are getting health benefits from a natural product when actually they are taking a hidden drug.


‘these products are unlicensed medicines and many people are consuming large quantities without knowing the interactions with other supplements or medicines they may be taking. this is very dangerous and there can be severe side effects.’


tadalfil and sulfoaildenafil were among the most frequently undeclared ingredients in products for erectile dysfunction. When taken with other medicines containing nitrates, they can lower blood pressure drastically and cause serious health problems.


‘this is a real issue,’ added Professor Burns, ‘as people suffering from conditions like diabetes, hyperlipidemia and hypertension are frequently prescribed nitrate containing medicines. If they are also taking a herbal supplement to treat erectile dysfunction, they could become very ill.


‘People who take these products will not be aware they have taken these substances and so when they visit their doctor they may not declare this and it can be difficult to determine what is causing the side effects. It is a very dangerous situation.’


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