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Thread: Assays to determine pharmaceutical ingredients in a capsule?

  1. #1 Assays to determine pharmaceutical ingredients in a capsule? 
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    Anyone in the pharmaceutical industry or anyone who knows stuffs about screening or analytical methods to determine the existing ingredients in medications (especially traditional medicines)?

    I have a bottle of medication with absolutely no information given. No labels. Not registered by any pharmaceutical company (so its some home-made/filled up capsule). Well, I'm curious as to what ingredients could be in each capsule and wonder if there are certain tests/assays that laboratories could run.

    I've a few questions and really hope someone could clarify this to me.
    1. Is there a method to determine the ingredients in these capsules? (No labels, un-registered drug and yeah, totally nothing! Just the capsules!)
    2. The quantity of the unknown ingredients in each capsule?

    Thanks in advance! Thanks for reading and I appreciate any comments given! Cheers!
    - AL.

    P.S. Currently, I know they could test for adulterants and heavy metals level but not sure if they could specifically determine the different ingredients in the capsules.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Let's assume that you have found a bottle of capsules that you suspect are illicit drugs used by someone in your home/school/workplace. Call a local drug-testing laboratory, ask them about running a complete battery of tests on one of the capsules, and make an appointment with them. You may need to find a lab that tests hair, which involves a solid-to-liquid extraction of the analytes, which is what the lab would need to do with the contents of a capsule. The lab will probably tell you that the results are not official because the sample is not what the tests are designed to test.

    The lab will need to dissolve the capsule's contents (as well as possible) and test it as though it were urine, saliva, hair, blood or whatever. The lab will most likely test for adulterants* as part of their regular battery of tests, and although this may sound unnecessary, the capsules may turn out to be adulterants* that allow a person to "beat" the drug test. The lab will probably tell you that health care insurance will not cover the costs of testing it, so you'll need to pay out of pocket (cash or credit card). Expect to pay about $200 or 150.

    Any positive results will likely be extremely high due to the sample being the drug itself.


    * By "adulterants", I mean chemicals meant to interfere with the drug tests so as to conceal the presence of drugs in the sample. Drug-testing labs know this, so they also test for adulterants.


    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  4. #3  
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    hey jrmonroe! thanks for your reply!

    and yes! I've found a bottle of capsules lying around my house and want to test it for some particular reason. I've tried contacting some authorities and some claimed that there isn't such technology currently to determine the different types of ingredients in the capsule.

    I understand that they could run an adulterant assay but am not really sure if its possible to actually determine the active ingrdient or the excipients. However, if it's a capsule, there wouldn't be lots of other excipients incorporated into the capsule I'd say.

    I wonder if they have a library of compounds that could match up the structure of the ingredients in the capsule. (something like high-throughput screening?)

    Anyone know of any assays or test names to actually find out the ingredients?

    Thanks for all your kind replies once again! Cheers!
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paperbags
    I've tried contacting some authorities and some claimed that there isn't such technology currently to determine the different types of ingredients in the capsule.

    I understand that they could run an adulterant assay but am not really sure if its possible to actually determine the active ingrdient or the excipients.

    I wonder if they have a library of compounds that could match up the structure of the ingredients in the capsule. (something like high-throughput screening?)

    Anyone know of any assays or test names to actually find out the ingredients?
    1. The assays are there, but they'd probably run them in different stages, and it'll be on the expensive side.

    2. Determination is possible; forensic labs do it all the time.

    3. Matching unknowns to entries in "libraries" is part of many assays (that is, the unknown matches 98.7% with this substance, 94.3% to another, etc).

    4. General kinds of assays (Mass Spectrometry, Chromatography, Electrophoresis, etc) will give general characteristics, try to match them to substances in their libraries, and then the lab might need to continue with more specific assays.

    It sounds like you know a lot about this.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  6. #5  
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    Thanks so much for your kind reply, jrmonroe!

    Now, I'm more aware of what I might be expecting now. I was surprised when the authorities said such technologgy doesn't exist because yeah, I've seen forensic teams doing it in TV/drama. It has to be true aye? heh,

    Anyway I've contacted some clinical labs and they say its possible to run some tests and the minimum requirement is only 10 capsules. Well, that's kinda not what I thought I would expect though. Haha.

    Thanks once again! Really appreciate your help on this :-D
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  7. #6  
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    Hi Paperbags!

    Saw this post while searching for the same thing online. May I know the clinical labs that you contacted which are able to run these tests? I checked with Ava and Hsa but they all tell me that they don't have the capabilities to do it for me.

    Thank you so much for reading this!
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