Authentication of artemether, artesunate and dihydroartemisinin antimalarial tablets using a simple colorimetric method
The recent and widespread appearance of counterfeit antimalarial tablets in South–east Asia prompted the search for simple field assays to identify genuine drugs. In a recently described colorimetric assay for artesunate, Fast red TR salt reacted with an alkali-decomposition product of artesunate to produce a distinct yellow colour. However, that assay is specific for artesunate and it cannot be used to test for artemether. Because of potential concerns over artemether tablet counterfeiting, the colorimetric assay was modified to detect artemether, dihydroartemisinin and artesunate tablets. Other common antimalarials (artemisinin, chloroquine diphosphate, mefloquine HCl, sulphadoxine and pyrimethamine), as well as aspirin and acetaminophen, were negative in the assay, indicating its specificity for artemether, dihydroartemisinin and artesunate. The colorimetric method can be used to obtain a rapid visual assessment of tablet authenticity. The method can also be used to quantify the drug content of tablets, when used in conjunction with a spectrophotometer.