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Identification and characterization by LC-UV-MS/MS of melanotan II skin-tanning products sold on the Internet
We can now use new methods to develop, validate and determine the identity, contents, and purity of samples of melanotan II peptide, a synthetic melanocortin receptor agonist, sold in vials as injectable skin-tanning products that were purchased from three online shops. Methods were based on liquid chromatography with ultra-violet detection (LC-UV) at wavelength 218 nm, and tandem mass spectrometric detection (MS/MS) after collision-induced fragmentation of the double charged [M+2H](2+) precursor ion (m/z 513). The Identification of melanotan II was verified by correct chromatographic retention time, and relative abundance ratios of 5 qualifying fragment ions. LC-UV was used to quantify melanotan II as well as impurities. Method validation was performed with reference to guidelines for assessing active substances in authorized medicinal products to reach acceptable accuracy and precision. Each shop claims vials contain 10 mg melanotan II. A broad range of peptide drugs used for enhancement purposes can be obtained from the illicit market. However, users of these drugs may be exposed to a range of potential harms, as shown in this study, given that these products are manufactured, distributed and supplied from an illicit market.