Journal Article

Rapid Screening for 67 Drugs and Metabolites in Serum or Plasma by Accurate-Mass LC–TOF-MS

Stephanie J. Marin, John M. Hughes, Bryan G. Lawlor, Chantry J. Clark and Gwendolyn A. McMillin

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 36, issue 7, pages 477-486
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI:
Rapid Screening for 67 Drugs and Metabolites in Serum or Plasma by Accurate-Mass LC–TOF-MS

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  • Medical Toxicology
  • Toxicology (Non-medical)


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Sixty-seven drugs and metabolites were detected in serum or plasma using a fast (7.5 min) liquid chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC–TOF-MS) method. This method was developed as a blood drug screen, with emphasis on the detection of common drugs of abuse and drugs used to manage chronic pain. Qualitative drug detection may identify a drug exposure, assure patient adherence with prescribed therapy and document abstinence from non-prescribed medications. Compound identification is based on chromatographic retention time, mass, isotope spacing and isotope abundance. Data analysis software (Agilent) generates a compound score based on how well these observed criteria matched theoretical and empirical values. The method was validated using fortified samples and 299 residual patient specimens (920 positive results). All results were confirmed by gas chromatography–MS or LC–tandem MS. The accuracy of positive results (samples meeting all qualitative criteria for retention time, mass and compound score) was >90% for drugs and/or metabolites, except for two benzodiazepines. There were 35 false positive results (seven compounds, 3.8%) that could be distinguished by retention time and/or absence of metabolites. The most frequent was 6-acetylmorphine in the absence of morphine. The LC–TOF-MS targeted screening method presented represents a sensitive and specific technology for drug screening of serum or plasma.

Journal Article.  7299 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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