The significant role of HPTLC in forensic drug control

The analytical tasks in forensic drug control are quite diverse. Whereas in humans the presence or absence of metabolites of forensic drugs and pharmaceuticals are of major importance, for illicit drugs quality aspects are of larger interest. The questions to answer vary depending on each application, e.g. during chemical synthesis the purity has to be tested and in control labs the identity and composition of illicit drugs have to be determined. These are just a few of the analytical issues, for which HPTLC offers an easy solution. The term “forensic” drug refers mainly to chemical or plant-derived substances that affect psychological, behavioral, or physical functions, and lead to varying degrees of dependence or addiction. In forensic labs hundreds of compounds can be analyzed by multi-target screening with LC-MS or GC-MS, but there are lots of applications where HPTLC delivers reliable results faster.

To check for identity, micro-chemical reactions (derivatizations) can be performed on the plate after or prior to development, evaluated within a short time, and at low costs. To identify an unknown substance or to confirm the presence of a known substance, HPTLC-MS can be performed within less than two minutes. Due to the focused approach of analyzing the compounds of interest only, HPTLC-MS prevents the collection of unnecessary data thus leading to additional cost savings. Thanks to the visual aspects of the planar offline principle, falsification can easily be detected through side-by-side comparison between a reference track and a sample track.

For quality control purposes, normal-phase HPTLC is a well-suited complementary technique to the commonly used RP-18 HPLC. The plate used in HPTLC shows any impurity present whereas those may not elute from a HPLC column. We believe that therefore product purity cannot be assured with HPLC alone. Our case study “In-process control during chemical synthesis of ergoline psychedelics by HPTLC” demonstrates the benefit of using HPTLC for process monitoring and the possibility to analyze the purity of a finished product. Visual evaluation of HPTLC chromatograms during a chemical synthesis of a distinct compound, as well as during its purification, allows a rapid judgement of the progress of the synthesis and purification, and on the presence or absence of by-products.

The ability to analyze multiple samples in parallel on the same plate enables high sample throughput. Thus HPTLC is an adequate analytical technique for process monitoring. The case study was done in cooperation with Dr. Matthias Grill from Lipomed AG in Arlesheim, Switzerland. Lipomed – one of the leading companies for reference standards worldwide – has recently embraced the advantages of HPTLC and implemented HPTLC in addition to HPLC to guarantee high product purity to their customers.

CAMAG’s instrumental systems are designed to meet the expert’s needs for successful analysis of various types of illicit drugs in different matrices (e.g. blood, serum, formulations).

Equip your lab with CAMAG instruments and analytical software to solve your analytical tasks in the field of forensic drugs.

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