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J Anal Toxicol. 2013 Jun;37(5):291-7. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkt027. Epub 2013 Apr 23.

Identification of a new metabolite of GHB: gamma-hydroxybutyric acid glucuronide.

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Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) is an important analyte in clinical and forensic toxicology with a narrow detection window of 3-6 h. In the search of improved detection methods, the existence in vivo of a glucuronated GHB metabolite (GHB-GLUC) was hypothesized. Chemically pure standards of GHB-GLUC and a deuterated analogue for chromatography were synthesized. Liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry were used for targeted analysis in anonymous clinical urine samples (n = 50). GHB-GLUC was found in concentrations ranging from 0.11 to 5.0 µg/mL (mean: 1.3 ± 1.2 µg/mL). Thus far, this is the first report of a GHB glucuronide detected in biological samples. Given that glucuronides generally have longer half-life values than their corresponding free drugs, GHB-GLUC should theoretically be a biomarker of GHB intoxication. It is also proposed that the hitherto unexplained reports of elevated GHB concentrations in some biological samples, which has caused the setting of a relatively high cutoff value (10 µg/mL), represent total GHB measurements (sum of free GHB and actively chemically hydrolyzed GHB-GLUC). To address these challenges, the present study must be followed by comprehensive pharmacokinetic and stability studies after the controlled administration of GHB.

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