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Title: Emergence of Cumyl-PEGACLONE-related fatalities in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Authors: Tiemensma, Marianne
Rutherford, John David
Scott, Timothy
Karch, Steven
Citation: Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2020 Nov 13. doi: 10.1007/s12024-020-00334-0.
Abstract: Suspected unnatural or unexpected deaths in the Northern Territory of Australia are reportable to the coroner, and investigation of such cases typically includes a post-mortem examination with comprehensive toxicological screening. An autopsy case series of five Cumyl-PEGACLONE-related fatalities over a recent eighteen-month period is presented. Databases of the Northern Territory coroner's office and the Royal Darwin Hospital Forensic Pathology Unit were searched to identify deaths related to synthetic cannabis use between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020. Toxicological analysis was performed at Forensic Science South Australia using a combination of liquid chromatography, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Cumyl-PEGACLONE, a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist (SCRA) with a gamma-carbolinone core, was detected in five cases (range in post-mortem blood 0.73-3.0 μg/L). Concurrent alcohol use and underlying cardiovascular disease were considered relevant factors in most cases. Toxicological Significance Scoring was carefully considered in all five cases, and in four cases, the presence of Cumyl-PEGACLONE was considered to be highly significant (TSS = 3). Synthetic cannabis use has not previously been identified in Northern Territory drug trends, and only one fatality related to the use of gamma-carbolines was identified in a recent Australia-wide study on synthetic cannabinoid-related fatalities. Deaths related to Cumyl-PEGACLONE use are emerging in the Northern Territory of Australia; this has public health implications. Although the exact mechanism(s) of death related to Cumyl-PEGACLONE are not fully established, this additional descriptive case series reaffirm an association with underlying cardiovascular disease, and suggest that concurrent use with alcohol may be relevant.
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Journal title: Forensic science, medicine, and pathology
Publication Date: 2020-11-13
Type: Journal Article
DOI: 10.1007/s12024-020-00334-0
Orcid: 0000-0002-8437-6683
Appears in Collections:(a) NT Health Research Collection

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