• Effective Pseudoephedrine Identification In Illicit Drug Mixtures


Effective Pseudoephedrine Identification In Illicit Drug Mixtures

May 07 2009

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc has introduced a new application note that demonstrates a fast and reliable UHPLC/MS method to effectively separate and identify pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, amphetamine, methamphetamine and 3,4-MDMA. The application note details UHPLC/MS methodology and instrumentation for high throughput separation and identification of components in illicit drug samples using the AccelaTM UHPLC system and MSQ PlusTM single quadrupole mass spectrometer. The application note entitled ‘Quantitative Analysis of Pseudoephedrine Tablets by UHPLC/MS’ is available to download free-of-charge at www.thermo.com/appnotes

Pseudoephedrine is frequently used as a decongestant in common cold products including Sudafed®, Benadryl® and Claritin®.  Pseudoephedrine, a List I chemical, is highly coveted by drug traffickers who use it to manufacture methamphetamine (meth), a Schedule II controlled substance, for the illicit drug market. Successful separation and identification of pseudoephedrine in illicit drug mixtures can help identify the exact sources and manufacturing pathways of meth seized in the illicit drug market.

Illicit drug mixtures are typically analysed by using classical techniques such as gas or liquid chromatography. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is preferred whenever the analytes are polar, thermally labile, or require chemical derivatisation before GC. Furthermore, ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) provides a competitive alternative to traditional GC. When combined with mass spectrometry, UHPLC/MS provides fast, efficient separations and sensitive detection with mass confirmation.

For this particular application, three common over-the-counter cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine as one of the active ingredients were analysed by UHPLC/MS after a simple extraction procedure that required no chemical derivatisation. Pseudoephedrine was identified as the major active ingredient for all three brand named drugs using the UHPLC/MS method. The unique Thermo Scientific Accela high-speed LC with sub 2-micron particle columns can operate at the standard pressures of conventional HPLC up to 15,000 psi and is capable of performing separations up to 10 times faster, with better resolution and efficiency, all in a single instrument. The ppb (ng/mL) level sensitivity and mass confirmation provided by UHPLC/MS allow unambiguous identification and quantification of pseudoephedrine and related compounds in drug preparations and illicit drug samples.

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