Reports of low-quality pharmaceuticals have been on the rise in the past decade, with the greatest prevalence of substandard medicines in developing countries, where lapses in manufacturing quality control or breaches in the supply chain allow substandard medicines to reach the marketplace. Here, we describe inexpensive test cards for fast field screening of pharmaceutical dosage forms containing beta lactam antibiotics or combinations of the four first-line antituberculosis (TB) drugs. The devices detect the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) ampicillin, amoxicillin, rifampicin, isoniazid, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide and also screen for substitute pharmaceuticals, such as acetaminophen and chloroquine that may be found in counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The tests can detect binders and fillers such as chalk, talc, and starch not revealed by traditional chromatographic methods. These paper devices contain 12 lanes, separated by hydrophobic barriers, with different reagents deposited in the lanes. The user rubs some of the solid pharmaceutical across the lanes and dips the edge of the paper into water. As water climbs up the lanes by capillary action, it triggers a library of different chemical tests and a timer to indicate when the tests are completed. The reactions in each lane generate colors to form a “color bar code” which can be analyzed visually by comparison with standard outcomes. Although quantification of the APIs is poor compared with conventional analytical methods, the sensitivity and selectivity for the analytes is high enough to pick out suspicious formulations containing no API or a substitute API as well as formulations containing APIs that have been “cut” with inactive ingredients.

Weaver, Abigail A., et al. "Paper Analytical Devices for Fast Field Screening of Beta Lactam Antibiotics and Antituberculosis Pharmaceuticals." Analytical Chemistry 85, no. 13