Direct Analysis of Pharmaceutical Drug Formulations Using Ion Mobility Spectrometry/Quadrupole-Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Combined with Desorption Electrospray Ionization

A novel approach to the rapid analysis of pharmaceutical drug formulations using hyphenated ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (ToF-MS) that requires no sample pretreatment or chromatographic separation is described. A modified quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer containing an ion mobility drift cell was used for gas-phase electrophoretic separation of ions prior to ToF-MS detection. The generation of sample ions directly from tablets and cream formulations was effected by desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) using a modified electrospray ion source. The analysis of a range of over-the-counter and prescription tablet formulations is described, including histamine H<sub>2</sub> receptor antagonist (ranitidine), analgesic (paracetamol), opiate (codeine), and aromatase inhibitor anticancer (anastrozole) drugs. The successful determination of active drugs from soft formulations, such as an antiseptic cream (chlorhexidine) and a nicotine-containing skin patch, is also presented. Limits of detection for the active drugs using the DESI/IMS/ToF-MS method fell within the high-picomole to nanomole range. In all cases, the use of ion mobility drift tube separation showed increased selectivity for active drug responses (present as low as 0.14% w/w) over excipient responses such as poly(ethylene glycol). Tandem mass spectrometric analysis of precursor ions separated by IMS allowed positive confirmation of active drugs with little loss of ion mobility efficiency. The ability to analyze hard or soft pharmaceutical formulations directly by DESI combined with ion mobility spectrometry/mass spectrometry in ∼2 min demonstrates the potential applicability of this novel method to pharmaceutical screening of low-molecular-weight drug formulations with high selectivity over the formulation vehicle.