Impurity profiling of methamphetamine hydrochloride drugs seized in the Philippines

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Methamphetamine hydrochloride is one of the most widely used illicit drugs in the Philippines. In this study, we describe the application of cluster analysis of trace impurities in the profiling of the seized methamphetamine drug samples.

Thirty milligrams of a homogenized drug sample were dissolved in 1 mL of pH 10.5 buffer solution and extracted with ethyl acetate containing three internal standards. The trace impurities were identified using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) and quantified by gas chromatography with a flame ionization detector (GC–FID).

Following previously reported methodologies, 30 impurity peaks were selected from the GC–FID chromatograms. The peak areas and retention times were referenced to the internal standards. The peak areas of the selected peaks were then grouped for cluster analysis. In order to check for consistency of clustering, two further cluster analyses were performed using 40 and 50 impurity peaks. Changes in clustering were observed in going from 30 to 40 impurity peaks, while analyses using 40 and 50 impurity peaks gave similar results. Thus, for the seized drug samples used in this study, cluster analysis using at least 40 impurity peaks showed better consistency of clustering as compared to analysis using 30 peaks only.

Ten of the impurity peaks were identified, of which four were identified for the first time in methamphetamine drug samples. These are p-bromotoluene, N-benzyl amphetamine, N-ethyl amphetamine, and N-ethyl methamphetamine. The presence of phenyl-2-propanone (P2P), N,N-dimethyl amphetamine, and N-formyl amphetamine is indicative that these casework samples were synthesized using the Leuckart method.