TESTING, DETECTION, SCREENING & ANALYSIS OF STEROIDS IN “AYURVEDIC” DRUGS, AYUSH MEDICINES & HERBAL PRODUCTS

ULTRA-MODERN INSTRUMENTATION (FT-IR & LC-MS IN COMBINATION) AS OPPOSED TO CLASSICAL TECHNIQUES LIKE TLC TO DETECT AT SUB-MILLIGRAM LEVELS LET ALONE MICROGRAM AND ALSO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN NATURAL ALKALOIDS AND SYNTHETIC STEROIDS

This article emphasizes the importance of avoiding un-authenticated products sold by un-licenced Quacks in the garb of "Ayurvedic" instant remedies. There are no "over-night" cures in Ayurveda!

A  customer walked in with an unmarked, unlabeled "ayurvedic" capsule which had been prescribed for his daughter to treat her asthma. Over a period of three months, first there was an immediate improvement in the condition of his daughter with instant symptomatic relief. She however, also gained a lot of weight during the same period.

Intrigued and suspicious, the father consulted a doctor at a reputed hospital, who recommended a steroid test on the ayurvedic capsule. At RATL, our scientists with help from Pharmacologists at MSR Medical College understood the background of the sample and patient which helps in narrowing the screening process.

Our technical team decided to split the task into three components, with the primary objectives being:

  1. Qualitative screening to establish the presence of any steroid moiety.
  2. If a steroid is present, then a quantification of the specific steroid, followed by the determination of the nature of the steroid – naturally occurring or synthetic.
  3. Finally to investigate if any of the anti-asthmatic components are of synthetic or allopathic origins.

Qualitative screening was carried out by FTIR, being the method of choice, as it enables comparison of a fingerprint spectrum of the sample with that of a standard spectrum in the US or Indian Pharmacopoeia databases of synthetic drug compounds. The FTIR spectrum of the sample thus derived was a near-perfect overlap to that of a Cortisone spectrum. This preliminary positive test necessitated a further confirmation and quantification of the specific steroid moiety by LC-MS.

The sample was scanned on a Mass Spectrometer and the molecular mass of the extracted total ion chromatogram was scanned under Selective Ion Monitoring (SIM) mode. The molecular mass of the active moiety was established to be 365, which exactly matched that of Hydrocortisone. Thus we were able to unambiguously and conclusively affirm that the supposedly ‘ayurvedic capsule’ was a concoction that also contained compounds which were of synthetic and not natural origin.

Thus with the timely and probing approach of the father, the intuition of the doctor and the cutting edge technology and methods of our lab and scientists, an intervention in the long term detrimental effects of steroid usage was possible, and the little girl was able to seek an alternative treatment for her asthma as well as regain her optimal body weight.

FTIR-sample-cropped
FTIR-STD-Dihydrocortisone-cropped

Figures 1 & 2 are FTIRs of the Ayurvedic Capsule and Dihydrocortisone standard. An overlay of the two gave almost identical patterns

MS-Sample-cropped
MS-STD-cropped

Figures 3 & 4 are mass spectrograms of the Ayurvedic Capsule and Dihydrocortisone standard. Both had identical molecular weights of 365.

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