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Ther Drug Monit. 2019 Jun;41(3):357-370. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0000000000000583.

Simultaneous Quantification of 13 Cannabinoids and Metabolites in Human Plasma by Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry in Adult Epilepsy Patients.

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Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota.
Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuropharmacology, College of Pharmacy, University of Minnesota.
MINCEP Epilepsy Care, University of Minnesota Physicians, Minneapolis, Minnesota.



A sensitive, robust method was developed and validated to quantitate 13 major natural cannabinoid parent and metabolite compounds in human plasma at or below 0.5 ng/mL.


A liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method was developed and validated to measure 13 cannabinoid compounds: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid, cannabidivarin, cannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabigerolic acid, cannabichromene, Δ-tetrahydocannabinol (THC), Δ-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA), Δ-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), 11-hydroxy-Δ-tetrahydrocannbinol (11-OH-THC), 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ-tetrahydrocannbinol (THC-COOH), and 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ-tetrahydrocannabinol glucuronide (THC-COOH-glu). Samples (200 µL) were extracted through protein precipitation and separated with a Kinetex EVO C18 column and a 65%-95% gradient of methanol and 0.2% ammonium hydroxide/H2O at a flow rate of 0.4 mL/min. Samples were obtained from patients with epilepsy receiving cannabis for the treatment of seizures.


The extracted lower limit of quantification was 0.05 ng/mL for CBD, cannabidivarin, cannabinol, and 11-OH-THC; 0.10 ng/mL for cannabidiolic acid, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, cannabigerolic acid, THC, THCA, and THCV; and 0.50 ng/mL for THC-COOH and THC-COOH-glu. Mean quality control intraday accuracy and precision for all analytes ranged 96.5%-104% and 2.7%-4.9%, respectively, whereas interday accuracy and precision ranged 98%-103.3% and 0.2%-3.6%, respectively. An absolute matrix effect was observed for some analytes, however, with minimal relative matrix effect. Lack of nonspecific drug binding to extraction glass and plasticware was verified. Patient CBD levels ranged from 0.135 to 11.13 ng/mL.


The validated method met FDA guidelines for bioanalytical assays precision and accuracy criteria. The assay reliably confirmed the use of particular medical cannabis formulations in patient samples as well as reliably measured low CBD concentrations from single-dose CBD exposure.

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