Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed a method for the identification, confirmation and quantitation of illicit drugs and their salt forms.
This 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 analyse seized materials.
The method also enables pharmaceutical drug QA/QC analysts to determine counterfeit drugs and describe drug efficacy.
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 Thermo Scientific HPLC/MS method is an alternative to other techniques currently being used to analyse illicit drugs and their salt forms.
This method enables simultaneous determination of cations and anions with high sensitivity, detection and accurate identification of a wider range of compounds without requiring derivitisation, which in turn provides simultaneous qualitative and quantitative information on drug salt forms.
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 performs 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 Thermo Fisher salt forms method is detailed in an application note entitled 'An Accurate and Robust LC/MS Method for the Identification of Illicit Drug Salt Forms', which is available for free from the company's website.