Bioanalytical methods for quantitation of levamisole, a widespread cocaine adulterant

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Abstract

Levamisole is an anthelminthic that was first used as a de-worming agent in humans and animals. It has also been used to treat inflammatory conditions as well as certain types of cancer. Levamisole was discontinued for human use in the early 21st century due to toxic side effects including agranulocytosis and vasculitis. Recently, levamisole was discovered as a cocaine adulterant after reports emerged of drug users with the above disorders. As the prevalence of cocaine usage has grown in the last 15 years, measurement of levamisole in human samples has become increasingly important. This review focuses on the various bioanalytical methods available for the determination of levamisole in human plasma and urine. Earlier methods employed gas chromatography coupled with nitrogen-selective thermionic specific detection and nitrogen-phosphorus detection, as well as high performance liquid chromatography coupled with ultraviolet detection. In addition, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and high performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) have also been described. Currently, GC-MS appears to be the method of choice however recent developments in the area of LC-MS/MS make this technology an attractive alternative. The merits of both GC-MS and LC-MS/MS for the determination of levamisole are evaluated on the basis of sample preparation, chromatographic separation conditions, run time, and analytical performance. In addition, emerging methods in this area are also reviewed.

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