August 9, 2006, Peabody, Mass. -- A new technical paper describes the use of direct analysis in real time (AccuTOF-DART™) mass spectrometry for rapid screening and analysis of counterfeit drugs.
In order to chemically fingerprint counterfeit anti-malarial drugs, Prof. Facundo Fernandez’ bioanalytical chemistry lab at Georgia Tech conducts experiments using novel mass spectrometry techniques. A newly-published paper, authored by Fernandez, et al., describes the use of ambient mass spectrometry ion sources for open air, high throughput screening of both counterfeit and genuine anti-malarial tablets. “Characterization of Solid Counterfeit Drug Samples by Desorption Electrospray Ionization and Direct-analysis-in-real-time Coupled to Time-of flight Mass Spectrometry” was published in ChemMedChem 2006, 1, 702-705.
The paper addresses a widespread public health problem, counterfeiting of an effective but costly anti-malarial drug, artesunate. Until now, there have been no satisfactory techniques for rapidly screening large quantities of pills, or for rapidly identifying the components in counterfeit drugs.
Among several techniques described in the paper, Fernandez used a direct analysis, exact-mass time-of-flight mass spectrometer (the JEOL AccuTOF™-DART™) to identify unknown components in counterfeit artesunate tablets. The counterfeit drug tablets were rapidly found to contain a surprising variety of compounds ranging from acetaminophen to antibiotics and antihistamines to older antimalarial drugs that are no longer effective. None of these components are effective against malaria, but may provide temporary relief and false confidence that may prevent the victim from obtaining effective treatment until the disease has progressed to a serious condition. Interestingly, several counterfeit drug tablets were found to contain trace amounts of genuine artesunate. The levels of artesunate in these tablets was well below the effective dose, but may have been added to confuse field tests for counterfeit drugs.
DART is a patented, unique ion source offered by JEOL USA for its AccuTOF time-of-flight mass spectrometers to enable direct detection of chemicals on surfaces, in liquids, and in gases without altering the sample state. DART is unique in that samples are analyzed in open air, using no radioactive components, solvent sprays, exposed high voltage, or vacuum.
Since its introduction, DART has gained wide acceptance for forensics, pharmaceuticals, and homeland security applications. The DART was selected by R&D Magazine as one of the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace in 2005. In addition to the R&D 100 Award, the DART won the 2005 Pittcon Editors’ Gold Award.