CandyCodes could provide sweet justice against fake pills

A bioengineer at the University of California, Riverside, may have found a way to prevent counterfeit medications: pill coatings inspired by the sprinkles on baked goods and candies.

Photo by danilo.alvesd on Unsplash

When we swallow a pill, we hope it will work without side effects. Few of us know to worry about a growing issue facing the pharmaceutical industry: counterfeit medications. These pills, patches, and other medical products might look just like the real thing. But they’re often stuffed with fillers that dilute the medication’s potency or they’re simply substituted for lookalikes that contain none of the prescribed medication at all.

Now, bioengineer William Grover at the University of California, Riverside, may have a solution. Inspired by the tiny, multi-colored sprinkles called nonpareils that decorate baked goods and candies, Grover created CandyCodes pill coatings to prevent counterfeits.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
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For patients with macular degeneration, new hope for restored sight

An implant, combined with the glasses and tiny video camera modeled in this photo, could improve the eyesight of millions of people with degenerative eye diseases in the coming years.

Daniel Palanker

For millions of people with macular degeneration, treatment options are slim. The disease causes loss of central vision, which allows us to see straight ahead, and is highly dependent on age, with people over 75 at approximately 30% risk of developing the disorder. The BrightFocus Foundation estimates 11 million people in the U.S. currently have one of three forms of the disease.

Recently, ophthalmologists including Daniel Palanker at Stanford University published research showing advances in the PRIMA retinal implant, which could help people with advanced, age-related macular degeneration regain some of their sight. In a feasibility study, five patients had a pixelated chip implanted behind the retina, and three were able to see using their remaining peripheral vision and—thanks to the implant—their partially restored central vision at the same time.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
Picture of blurry purple mushrooms
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Monnica Williams was stuck. The veteran psychologist wanted to conduct a study using psychedelics, but her university told her they didn't have the expertise to evaluate it via an institutional review board, which is responsible for providing ethical and regulatory oversight for research that involves human participants. Instead, they directed her to a hospital, whose reviewers turned it down, citing research of a banned substance as unethical.

"I said, 'We're not using illegal psilocybin, we're going through Health Canada,'" Williams said. Psilocybin was banned in Canada in 1974, but can now be obtained with an exemption from Health Canada, the federal government's health policy department. After learning this, the hospital review board told Williams they couldn't review her proposal because she's not affiliated with the hospital, after all.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.