Combating counterfeit medicines with the Minilab

Substandard and counterfeit medicines pose a deadly hazard. Interpol estimates that up to 30% of all medicines in developing health care systems fall into this category. The Global Pharma Health Fund (GPHF ), a non-profit initiative funded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is dedicated to fighting counterfeit medicines: the Minilab developed by the GPHF is able to detect counterfeit medicines quickly, easily and cheaply. Two test kits each weighing around 30 kilograms contain a large number of test methods that state health care workers in developing countries can use to inspect pharmaceuticals. Reference samples are used to test the identity and concentration of altogether 63 active ingredients in total, ranging from anti-malarial drugs to antibiotics up to analgesics and antipyretics.

The GPHF developed the Minilab specifically for use in regions with a simple infrastructure. The rapid analyses do not rely on external power sources and normal drinking water suffices for the tests. There is currently no other product like it. To date, the GPHF has supplied 578 Minilabs at cost to 86 countries. More than half of these countries are in Africa, and one third of them are in Asia. The Minilabs are primarily utilized by local health authorities, often in collaboration with labs for governmental drug inspection centers

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany participates in external research with the aim of increasing the number of medicines that can be tested. In 2011 and 2012, the GPHF developed testing methods for seven other pharmaceuticals each and updated the user manuals accordingly. The GPHF also offers training courses in order to familiarize users with the test procedures. In 2012, training courses were held in Russia, Myanmar, Angola, Germany, and Indonesia.

A total of 77 Minilabs were supplied in 2011 and 100 in 2012. In addition to selling them at cost, which is handled via a distribution partner, both the GPHF and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany donate Minilabs in individual cases. In 2012, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany donated ten Minilabs to the Angolan Ministry of Health, and the GPHF donated five labs to the Ministry of Health of Zambia, five to the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Tanzania, and one to the Ghanaian Ministry of Health.

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Goals: Minilab











Strategic goal



Status in 2011 and 2012


Combat counterfeit medicines by providing and further developing the mobile GPHF Minilab

Develop new test methods for five active ingredients and add the descriptions of the new test methods to the user manuals

End of 2011

2011: Seven new test methods were developed.

2012: Five training seminars were conducted on using the GPHF Minilab, and seven new test methods were developed.


Conduct three training seminars on using the GPHF Minilab, sell 50 Minilabs, develop seven new test methods

End of 2013


Legend: Achieved In progress Not achieved New goal


Publication of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

In the United States and Canada the subsidiaries of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operate under the umbrella brand EMD.


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