Comparing HPLC Stationary Phases for The Separation of Six Compounds Used in Pain Management: Is There a Viable Alternative to C18?

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In this study, four different chromatographic column chemistries (octadecylsilane/ C18, pentafluorophenyl/ PFP, octadecylated polystyrene-divinylbenzene/ PRP and underivatized silica/ HILIC) were compared under optimal conditions to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the phases for use in the determination of pain management drugs by LC-MS. Furthermore, different column scaffoldings, traditional silica, porous shell, and porous polymer, were also compared. The drugs included in this study included buprenorphine, fentanyl, methadone, naloxone, oxycodone, and tramadol. Factors such as peak area, peak resolution, theoretical plates, and reproducibility were compared among the columns and analytes using a 2-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Because of the lipophilic nature of these drugs, the C18 columns tended to offer the best performance; however, PFP and PRP columns were viable alternatives. Finally, HILIC separation was also suitable for most of the compounds under study; often providing higher peak areas (sensitivity) likely associated with higher organic (% B) conditions, thus favoring mass spectrometric detection. To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore viability of other non-C18 stationary phases such as PRP and HILIC for this drug class.