Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis

Development and validation of a bioanalytical method for the simultaneous determination of heroin, its main metabolites, naloxone and naltrexone by LC-MS/MS in human plasma samples: Application to a clinical trial of oral administration of a heroin/naloxone formulation.

PMID 26037158


A bioanalytical method using high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was developed and validated for simultaneous quantification of heroin, its main metabolites and naloxone. In addition, naltrexone was detected qualitatively. This method was used to analyse human plasma samples from a clinical trial after oral administration of a heroin/naloxone formulation in healthy volunteers. O-methylcodeine was used as an internal standard. Samples were kept in an ice-bath during their processing to minimize the degradation of heroin. A short methodology based on protein precipitation with methanol was used for sample preparation. After protein precipitation, only the addition of a formic acid solution was needed to elute heroin, 6-monoacetylmorphine, morphine, naloxone and naltrexone. Morphine metabolites were evaporated to dryness and reconstituted in a formic acid solution. Chromatographic separation was achieved at 35 °C on an X-Bridge Phenyl column (150 × 4.6 mm, 5 μm) using a gradient elution with a mobile phase of ammonium formate buffer at pH 3.0 and formic acid in acetonitrile. The run time was 8 min. The analytes were monitored using a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer with positive electrospray ionization (ESI+) in multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode. The method was found to be linear in a concentration range of 10-2000 ng/mL for M3G and 10-1000 ng/mL for the rest of compounds. Quality controls showed accurate values between -3.6% and 4.0% and intra- and inter-day precisions were below 11.5% for all analytes. The overall recoveries were approximately 100% for all analytes including the internal standard. A rapid, specific, precise and simple method was developed for the determination of heroin, its metabolites, naloxone and naltrexone in human plasma. This method was successfully applied to a clinical trial in 12 healthy volunteers.

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Naltrexone hydrochloride
C20H23NO4 · HCl