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Drug counterfeiting is becoming a serious and widespread public health problem. The number of FDA open investigations into drug counterfeiting rose sharply from 2000 to 2001 and has remained high in recent years. Counterfeit drugs are not only illegal, but dangerous; they may contain little or no actual drug content, or they may contain completely different drugs with potentially toxic consequences. The problem is worldwide; it has been reported that nearly 50% of all anti-malarial drugs in Africa are thought to be counterfeit. Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART™) offers a simple solution to screening for counterfeit drugs. DART can detect the presence or absence of drugs in medicines within seconds by simply placing the pill or medicine in front of the mass spectrometer. In combination with the AccuTOF, DART provides exact masses and accurate isotopic patterns that provide elemental compositions for known and unknown substances.

Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a fast-acting central nervous system depressant. Prior to its ban by the FDA in 1990, GHB was sold in bodybuilding formulas. It has been abused as a euphoriant. Because it is colorless and odorless, it can be added to alcoholic drinks of unsuspecting victims. An overdose can result in serious consequences, including respiratory depression and coma. GHB was classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance in March, 2000. Detection of GHB is problematic. GC/MS and LC/ MS methods are time consuming. A rapid colorimetric assay for GHB has been developed, but this assay suffers from some limitations. For example, ethanol produces the same colorimetric response as GHB. The AccuTOF™ mass spectrometer equipped with Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART™) can rapidly detect GHB anion (C4H7O3 -, m/z 103.0395) on surfaces, in urine, and in ethanol. No solvent extraction, wipes, or chromatography are required. Examples are shown in the figures below.

The widespread presence of illicit drugs on currency is an indication of the extent of the worldwide substance abuse problem. Remarkably, cocaine can be found on virtually all one-dollar bills in the United States — the upper limit for the general background level of cocaine is estimated to be 13 ng per bill. The Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART™) ion source, combined with the AccuTOF™ mass spectrometer can be used to sample drugs on currency within seconds. No sample preparation (extraction, wipes, etc.) or chromatography is required. The bill is placed in front of the DART and the presence of drugs can be detected immediately. Only a small portion of the bill is sampled at any given time. This allows the analyst to view the distribution of drugs on the surface of a bill, and allows the bill to be retained for reexamination at a later time.

The AccuTOF™ equipped with Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART™) is capable of analyzing drugs in pills and capsules with no sample preparation. In most cases, the pill can simply be placed in front of the DART and the active ingredients can be detected within seconds. This application note shows a wide variety of pills that have been analyzed by using DART. The examples include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and illicit drugs that were confiscated by a law-enforcement agency.

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    Corona - Glow Discharge (DART Ion Source)

    January 28, 2022
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