Simultaneous determination of human plasma levels of citalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, and their metabolites by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry

J Chromatogr Sci. 1998 Jul;36(7):365-71. doi: 10.1093/chromsci/36.7.365.


A gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method is presented which allows the simultaneous determination of the plasma concentrations of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors citalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, and their pharmacologically active N-demethylated metabolites (desmethylcitalopram, didesmethylcitalopram, and desmethylsertraline) after derivatization with the reagent N-methyl-bis(trifluoroacetamide). No interferences from endogenous compounds are observed following the extraction of plasma samples from six different human subjects. The standard curves are linear over a working range of 10-500 ng/mL for citalopram, 10-300 ng/mL for desmethylcitalopram, 5-60 ng/mL for didesmethylcitalopram, 20-400 ng/mL for sertraline and desmethylsertraline, and 10-200 ng/mL for paroxetine. Recoveries measured at three concentrations range from 81 to 118% for the tertiary amines (citalopram and the internal standard methylmaprotiline), 73 to 95% for the secondary amines (desmethylcitalopram, paroxetine and sertraline), and 39 to 66% for the primary amines (didesmethylcitalopram and desmethylsertraline). Intra- and interday coefficients of variation determined at three concentrations range from 3 to 11% for citalopram and its metabolites, 4 to 15% for paroxetine, and 5 to 13% for sertraline and desmethylsertraline. The limits of quantitation of the method are 2 ng/mL for citalopram and paroxetine, 1 ng/mL for sertraline, and 0.5 ng/mL for desmethylcitalopram, didesmethylcitalopram, and desmethylsertraline. No interferences are noted from 20 other psychotropic drugs. This sensitive and specific method can be used for single-dose pharmacokinetics. It is also useful for therapeutic drug monitoring of these three drugs and could possibly be adapted for the quantitation of the two other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors on the market, namely fluoxetine and fluvoxamine.

MeSH terms

  • 1-Naphthylamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • 1-Naphthylamine / analysis
  • 1-Naphthylamine / pharmacokinetics
  • Citalopram / blood*
  • Citalopram / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Paroxetine / blood*
  • Paroxetine / pharmacokinetics
  • Quality Control
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / blood*
  • Sertraline


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Paroxetine
  • 1-Naphthylamine
  • Sertraline