Case Series of Novel Illicit Opioid-Related Deaths
Donna Papsun, Amy Hawes, Amanda L.A. Mohr, Melissa Friscia, Barry K. Logan
ABSTRACT: Novel illicit opioids,such as furanyl fentanyl and U-47700, are being encountered with increasing frequency in street heroin samples and have been confirmed in a series of overdose deaths in Tennessee. In this paper, we report the pathology and toxicology from 11 deaths involving furanyl fentanyl and U-47700. Routine toxicology was performed on postmortem femoral or antemortem hospital blood samples with targeted broad spectrum drug screening using liquid chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-TOF/MS). Confirmation and quantitation of the opioid agonists U-47700 and furanyl fentanyl was performed by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS) using a novel method. Two cases were identified as containing U-47700 in whole blood (189 and 547 ng/mL), and nine cases contained furanyl fentanyl in whole blood, with concentrations ranging from 2.0 – 42.9 ng/mL. In all 11 cases, the manner of death was deemed accident, with drug intoxication being the primary cause of death; one case was complicated by smoke inhalation. All of the decedents were males ranging from 18-62 years, with the median age being 36 years old. The successful identification and confirmation of these novel illicit opioids in this case series relied on the comprehensive investigation and collaboration of scene investigation, forensic pathology, and forensic toxicology.