quality and risk assessment of health products available on the internet
We monitor the quality of medicines and health products on behalf of various authorities. Both the medicines market and the market of health products (cosmetics, medical devices, etc.) are evolving continuously, resulting in the release of new types of products on the market. In addition to the regular market, health products and medicines are also available on the internet, which is rife with counterfeit, illegal or poor-quality products.
We develop new analytical methods and strategies to anticipate future analysis requirements. We also carry out market studies with a particular focus on products sold on non-accredited websites.
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We mainly work on four groups of products. The first group is designer molecules. These are analogues of existing medicines, the (side) effects of which have never been investigated. The unknown side effects could present a health risk. These analogues are often found in illegal medicines and food supplements. Thus, more than 60 analogues for sildenafil, the active substance in Viagra®, have already been found.
The second group concerns plant-based food supplements, which may contain illegal or toxic plants. We develop strategies to identify certain plants in these products, so that illegal or toxic products can be taken off the market.
Biopharmaceutical products are the third group that we investigate. Within this group, an increasing number of peptides and proteins are being sold illegally. Examples include growth hormones, but also peptides that colour the skin brown when injected, such as Melanotan. Identifying this third group of products requires specific methods and approaches, which we develop and implement ourselves. In this area we also collaborate on formulating European recommendations for laboratories that are part of the European OMCL network.
The last group is medical devices. Consumers are not aware that they use medical devices every day, such as condoms, lubricants, contact lenses and lens fluids. These products are offered at a low cost on the internet. We develop new analysis methods to check the safety of internet products and to inform consumers.