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Determination of 32 cathinone derivatives and other designer drugs in serum by comprehensive LC-QQQ-MS/MS analysis

Recently, clandestine drug lab operators have attempted to bypass controlled substances laws and regulations with “designer” compounds chemically and pharmacologically similar to controlled substances. For example, “bath salts” have erupted onto the scene as “legal highs” containing cathinone analogs that have produced severe side effects in users worldwide. These products have sparked concern among law enforcement agencies, and emergency bans have been placed on the sale of such items. Despite the increasing number of designer drugs available, there are few comprehensive screening techniques for their detection and quantification in biological specimens. The liquid chromatography triple quadrupole tandem mass spectrometry (LC-QQQ-MS/MS) method presented here encompasses over thirty important compounds within the phenethylamine, tryptamine, and piperazine designer drug classes. Analytes were determined by LC-QQQ-MS/MS in the multiple-reaction monitoring mode after mixed-mode solid-phase extraction. The bioanalytical method was fully validated according to recommended international guidelines. The assay was selective for all analytes with acceptable accuracy and precision. Limits of quantification were in the range of 1–10 ng/mL for each compound with limits of detection near 10 pg/mL. In order to evaluate its applicability in a forensic toxicological setting, the validated method was used to analyze post-mortem specimens from two cases that were suspected of containing designer drugs. The method was able to identify and quantify seven of these compounds at concentrations as low as 11 ng/mL. The method should have wide applicability for rapid screening of important new drugs of abuse at high sensitivity in both post- and ante-mortem forensic analysis. Figure LC-MS chromatogram (intensity vs. retention time) of primary MRM transitions for 32 targeted analytes

Authors:   Madeleine J. Swortwood, Diane M. Boland, Anthony P. DeCaprio
Journal:   Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Year:   2012
Pages:   1
DOI:   10.1007/s00216-012-6548-8
Publication date:   25-Nov-2012
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