Posted on 2006-05-17
Last Modified: 2012-06-27
Is there a simple test one can perform to check whether a given tablet contains Aspirin?
Question by:WernerVonBraun
    LVL 16

    Accepted Solution

    Hi WernerVonBraun,

    An acidified solution of ferric nitrate can be used to detect the presence of aspirin in an unknown powder. The aspirin hydrolyzes to form salicylic acid and acetic acid, and the ferric ion reacts with the salicylic acid to form a compound with a specific purple color.

    Or let my wife test if for you. She's allergic. :-)

    LVL 4

    Author Comment


    Seriously, though.

    My dad had a minor stroke last week. Thankfully it looks like he'll recover fully. He's taking part in the PERFORM trial:

    Obviously this is a double-blind trial but the naughty person in me would like to take one of his tablets and check it out...... <g>

    Obviously, too, in the interest of science, I wouldn't tell him or anybody else of the result.

    Anyway. Don't know whether I'll ever get around to it.
    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    "In contrast to aspirin and clopidogrel, S 18886 has antivasoconstrictive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and potentially antiatherosclerotic properties, which make it a very promising drug for secondary prevention."

    So the question is, is my dad getting the Terutroban, or is he getting the Aspirin..... :-)

    Anyway. Thanks
    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Obviously, they only need to add a small amount of Aspirin to the other tablets to thwart precisely this kind of attempt to figure out which one you've got....
    LVL 16

    Expert Comment

    Hi Werner,

    I guessed there was something deeper than your original question, there always is with your questions. :-)

    There are several problems with your suggestion.

    1. Interfering with double-blind tests is a bad idea. You risk the chances of the whole test being abandoned as worthless.

    2. It would leave your dad one short for his test. This would show up in the results as well as possibly interfering with the possibly beneficial effects the drug might be having for him.

    3. It is illegal. The tablets are the property of the chemical company. You would at least be trespassing on their property if not stealing it. Neither would be very pleasant for you if found guilty. The cost of abandoning a test would potentially be at your door if it turns into a civil suit.

    4. Stealing company secrets, especially chemical companies, is also a huge no-no. If you test the tablet in a lab, they would quickly recognise it as a new drug and would ask some very searching questions, or perhaps pass the details up to its parent company, which may be a rival. There's 'deep doo-doo' (as my wife describes it) up that route.

    LVL 4

    Author Comment


    > 2. It would leave your dad one short for his test.

    It's a test spanning three years, so one out of a thousand wouldn't make a real difference, and....

    > 3. It is illegal.

    Ah well. So is going faster than the speed limit :P


    > 4. Stealing company secrets.

    Not really; that the double-blind test contains half a sample of just Aspirin is well know. Also, the other compound is also known, it's called terutroban. I just wanted to know whether the tablet contains Aspirin, I wouldn't be interested in what there is in it if it doesn't.

    So none of that bothers me greatly. BUT.

    > 1. Interfering with double-blind tests is a bad idea. You risk the chances of the whole test being abandoned as worthless.

    That's one I do take very seriously and no matter how curious I am I shall refrain from interfering for the good of science. 3 years is a long time to wait though...... <g>

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