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J Am Soc Mass Spectrom. 2008 Mar;19(3):380-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jasms.2007.11.016. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Direct quantitation of active ingredients in solid artesunate antimalarials by noncovalent complex forming reactive desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.

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School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0400, USA.


The direct quantitation of active ingredients in solid pharmaceutical tablets by desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI MS) is complicated by the dependence of the DESI signal on variables such as spray angles and distances, morphological sample properties, and the difficulty of properly incorporating an internal standard. Here, a DESI MS method for the direct quantitative screening of widely counterfeited antimalarial tablets containing artesunate is presented. This method is based on reactive DESI, where analyte desorption and ionization occur by the formation of noncovalent complexes between alkylamine molecules in the DESI spray solution and artesunate molecules exposed on the sample surface in the open air. For quantitation purposes, the internal standard d4-artesunic acid was synthesized by esterification of d4-succinic anhydride and dihydroartemisinin, and homogeneously dispersed on the tablet surface via a controlled deposition procedure. The analyte-to-internal standard signal intensity ratio was observed to be largely independent of all DESI variables, only showing dependence on tablet hardness. Analysis of artesunate tablet standards prepared with known amounts of the active ingredient in the 0.02 to 0.32 mg artesunate mg(-1) tablet range resulted in a calibration curve with good linearity (r = 0.9985). Application of this method to the direct quantitation of genuine artesunate tablets from Vietnam showed a 6% (n = 4) precision and 94% accuracy after the spectral data were corrected for tablet hardness.

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