A few clues in the case of the missing (–)-sparteine did turn up during C&EN’s investigation. The compound has been found in two places: U.S.-based chemical suppliers Sigma-Aldrich and TCI America report having small quantities available. Sigma-Aldrich sales representatives say they have no idea what is happening with the (–)-sparteine supply chain and can’t disclose its source. The company lists (–)-sparteine from $50 per 0.5 g and up, depending on the grade and amount.
At TCI, R&D Manager Sriramurthy Vardhineedi has a bit more to share. In 2011, when TCI recognized the shortage, the company developed a proprietary procedure to produce kilogram quantities of high-purity (–)-sparteine as needed, Vardhineedi says. TCI is possibly the world’s only current commercial producer, he notes. (–)-Sparteine remains in high demand, Vardhineedi adds, but he points out it is expensive. TCI offers the compound at $98 per gram and up, depending on the amount.
As to what happened to the supply after 2010? “We are guessing that some company decided to stop making this valuable chiral alkaloid without realizing they were the sole supplier,” Vardhineedi says.I would really like to know what caused the shortage - and here's hoping that we don't have to wait another 7 years to find the answer!