Faculty of Pharmacy test sample to help identify powerful new illegal 'designer' drug

9 February 2010

The Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney was contacted recently by to ask for help in identifying the components of a sample of what was believed to be an illegal drug-containing powder known as 'Ivory Wave'.

Paul Groundwater, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Faculty of Pharmacy and his colleague Mr Bruce Tattam, who runs the Faculty's Mass Spectrometry Facility, were able to compare spectra they obtained with forensic data from the German police to identify the presence of methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) in the compound.

According to the ninemsn website, "Australian drug users are ordering 'Ivory Wave' through research chemical websites based in Europe, which disguise the drug's true identity by selling it as a "soothing bath salt"".

Tests revealed that the powder contained a potent psychoactive chemical similar to ecstasy (MDMA). The tests showed the drug was a mixture that contained at least one other major component, but MDPV was the only identifiable chemical.

Professor Groundwater warned that users of Ivory Wave could be putting their health at serious risk.

"Drugs approved for human use must meet very stringent criteria in terms of their manufacture and documents which establish their quality submitted to the TGA (in Australia) for evaluation," he said, "These designer drugs have not been subjected to such scrutiny and so they may contain many harmful by-products as a result of their production. Ivory Wave contains at least 2 other components, which may be active ingredients, impurities from the manufacture, or simply additives used to 'cut' the MDPV active".

MDPV is now a controlled substance in some Scandinavian countries where police have been forced to use restraining force when dealing with serious MDPV intoxications and transporting psychotic drug abusers to hospital.

The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility and the Mass Spectrometry Analytical Facility is located in the Faculty of Pharmacy. The Facility carries out in-house and collaborative research and provides an analytical support service to the pharmaceutical community. Commercial work can also be undertaken.

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Contact: Claire Riordan

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