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A Unique HPLC/MS Salt Forms Method Enables Drug Fingerprinting

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This unique fingerprinting method combines high-performance liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS) to provide accurate simultaneous separation and detection of cations and anions in illicit drug salt forms. The technique enables drug salt forms to be precisely identified and confirmed by two independent parameters - retention time and mass spectral signature, allowing forensic drug chemists to reliably analyze seized materials. The method also enables pharmaceutical drug QA/QC analysts to determine counterfeit drugs and describe drug efficacy.

The World Drugs Report 2009 states that between 172 and 250 million people worldwide used illicit drugs at least once in 2007, with 18–38 million estimated to be heavy drug users. The illicit drug trade fuels crime and violence and inappropriate and extended use of any of these drugs can lead to devastating health outcomes. Illicit drugs are often encountered in the form of salts and identification of the specific counterion present may provide valuable information about the source of production and the manufacturing pathway. As a result, techniques to accurately screen and identify drugs, drug precursors and new drug derivatives are crucial to law enforcement efforts to curb the black market in controlled substances.

The new Thermo Scientific HPLC/MS method offers an alternative to other techniques currently being used to analyze illicit drugs and their salt forms. This method enables simultaneous determination of cations and anions with exceptional sensitivity, detection and accurate identification of a wider range of compounds without requiring derivitization, which in turn provides simultaneous qualitative and quantitative information on drug salt forms.
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Drug Fingerprinting Enabled via Unique HPLC/MS Salt Forms Method

In this method, HPLC/MS analysis is performed on a Thermo Scientific Accela UHPLC system coupled to a Thermo Scientific MSQ Plus Mass Detector, a sensitive and fast scanning single quadrupole mass spectrometer. The Accela™ UHPLC system offers the flexibility of performing both conventional and high-speed LC separations on a single platform, while the rapid polarity switching capability of the MSQ™ Plus Mass Detector, together with its operational mass range, enables simultaneous detection of cations and anions in a single analysis.

The new method is detailed in an application note entitled “An Accurate and Robust LC/MS Method for the Identification of Illicit Drug Salt Forms.” It is available free via www.thermoscientific.com/salt.