A spoonful of sugar helps us say, “Fake medicine, you’re GOING DOOOWN!” 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Many of us depend on essential medications to keep us healthy. But counterfeit drugs–those marketed as name brand and genuine, but not–abound. ! How can we be sure what we’re taking? ?

Enter William Grover from the University of California, Riverside. Inspired by the Nonpareils brand chocolates, he proposed a SWEET idea for preventing drug fraud – with SPRINKLES!

Randomly covering pills with multicolored sprinkles creates a pattern that’s impossible to repeat by chance. Grover calls it a CandyCode. 

This one-of-a-kind code is converted into a unique ID and stored in the manufacturer’s database. With a smartphone, consumers can upload pictures of their CandyCoded pills to the manufacturer’s server. The server then checks the CandyCode against their database to verify the pill’s authenticity.

The CandyCodes make it hard for drug fraudsters and easy for the rest of us. We just need our phones to add a sprinkle of safety to our medications. 

Unsafe pills could soon be history. Sweet ride! 

Reference: Grover, W.H. CandyCodes: simple universally unique edible identifiers for confirming the authenticity of pharmaceuticals. Sci Rep 12, 7452 (2022).