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Papers of the Week

2021 Jan 22

J Chromatogr Sci

Detection of 28 Corticosteroids in Pharmaceutical and Proprietary Chinese Medicinal Products Using Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry.


With their potent anti-inflammatory effects, corticosteroids are popular adulterants in illicit health products for allergies, dermatitis and pain control. Their illegal supply over the counter is also a common practice for similar conditions. Prolonged, unsupervised usage of corticosteroids often leads to severe adverse effects including Cushing syndrome, adrenal insufficiency and immunosuppression. Confirming clinical suspicion of unsupervised corticosteroid usage is challenging. Apart from evaluating the adrenal function, identifying the concerned drug is the most direct proof of its consumption. While detecting corticosteroids or their metabolites in biological specimens is convincing evidence of their usage, such approach is analytically difficult. More importantly, this approach would not be useful if the patient has stopped taking the drug for some time-a situation that is often encountered clinically. We advocate a more direct approach by measuring corticosteroids in suspicious medicinal products. In the current study, a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method for simultaneous detection of 28 corticosteroids in pharmaceutical and proprietary Chinese medicine products was developed and validated for the purpose. The method was applied to 388 cases of suspected unsupervised corticosteroids usage. Among 1,000 products tested, corticosteroids were found in 276 of them and confirmed the clinical suspicion.