Science uses art tool to ID drug colors

Because your turquoise is likely someone else's teal, QA inspectors can have difficulty determining active pharmaceutical ingredients by color alone. But contract manufacturer Metrics has a fix.

Using the 1,114 subtly differing shades of colors in the Pantone Formula Guide, company scientists led by Jennifer Alligood and Kimberly Lupo assigned specific ranges of color shades to API samples.

Pantone knows shades. The color-standard company's matching system is the high-precision tool used by graphic designers worldwide to specify color choice to the printers who reproduce their work. Its compact swatch books are often the difference-of-opinion settler.

Using the Pantone guide, nearly 90 percent of participants in a Metrics study correctly identified API based on color alone. That compares with less than half who succeeded using the more traditional method of viewing the API against a white background.

Removing the human bias from color identification enhances safety in drug production. Discoloration of a substance can be a sign of degradation or the presence of impurities. And the difference might be as minor as beige versus sand.

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