It is claimed that ayurvedic/herbal healthcare products (AHPs) are safe because of
their natural origin. However, several reports exist of adulteration of AHPs with
synthetic drugs. In this study, a generalized strategy was developed using LC-MS/TOF
for the detection and verification of steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs in 58
AHPs collected from various parts of India. The strategy involved recording of mass
spectral information for standard drugs-including ionization mode (ESI/APCI - ve or
+ ve), mass spectrum, accurate mass, identification of qualifier fragments (two),
extracted ion chromatograms (EICs), isotopic pattern and determination of UV max (nm)-through
UV-PDA studies. Adulteration was then detected in AHPs primarily through comparison
of EICs at accurate m/z for molecular ion peaks and R(T) matching with the standard.
It was confirmed by spiking with the standards, and matching mass spectrum, accurate
mass, R(T) of qualifier fragments, isotopic pattern and UV spectrum of the standards
with the adulterant peaks in AHPs. Dexamethasone and diclofenac were detected as adulterants
in ten AHPs whereas one AHP tested positive for piroxicam and another for dexamethasone.
All the adulterated products were sold by the healthcare practitioners, while no product
marketed by manufacturers or chemist shops had this problem. The study showed that
LC-MS/TOF-based screening could be used as a rapid approach to monitor adulteration
of steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs in AHPs.