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Basic Tests for Drugs. Pharmaceutical Substances, Medicinal Plant Materials and Dosage Forms.
  1. R J Flanagan

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    (Sw fr 26; Sw fr18.20 in developing countries.) Geneva: World Health Organisation, 1998. ISBN 92 4 154513 5.

    This book updates two related WHO publications, Basic Tests for Pharmaceutical Substances (1986) and Basic Tests for Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms (1991), and gives information on tests for a further 23 substances, 58 dosage forms, and four medicinal plant materials. The drugs/preparations listed are mainly from the WHO Model List of Essential Drugs (1997). Reagents, test solutions, and volumetric solutions not listed before are detailed in the present volume, although there is nothing on suppliers, and little on reagent stability, storage conditions, and so on. There is a cumulative index to the three books.

    The tests are confined to a physical description of the material and simple colour and other reactions, and aim to facilitate identity testing of bulk supplies, for example when labelling is unclear, and to indicate whether gross degradation has occurred in certain substances. A lot of work has gone into this relatively short publication, as evidenced by the list (more than a page) of acknowledgements of individuals and collaborating centres. Is the book of interest to clinical/forensic laboratories? Probably not, except that some laboratories might find a few of the tests useful if asked to identify powders, and so on (see Flanagan RJ, et al. Basic analytical toxicology. Geneva: WHO, 1995). There are simpler ways of identifying tablets (for example, Ramsey JD, Woolley JM. TICTAC—a CD-ROM for the identification of tablets and capsules. The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists: Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting, Padova, 1997:174–82).

    The tests are supplemented by a review of recent published non-WHO work on simple methods for identifying pharmaceuticals, including volumetric, spectrophotometric, and thin layer chromatographic (TLC) methods. It seems that more than 150 TLC procedures were developed by WHO collaborators in the early 1980s using some 40 different mobile phases, but this work was not published as it was thought necessary to try to reduce the number of mobile phases used. Publishing and updating books, data sheets, and so on is becoming easier as desk top and even electronic publishing become the norm. It remains to be seen how WHO will respond to this challenge—there is not even an email address for comments in the present volume.