We have developed a new difluoroalkyl ketal sulfinate salt reagent suitable for direct derivatization of heteroarene C-H bonds. The reagent is capable of introducing a ketone functional group on heteroarene bioactive compounds via a one-pot reaction. Remarkably, in three examples the ketone analog and its parent drug had almost identical cytotoxicity. In a representative example, the ketone analog was bioconjugated with a delivery vehicle via an acid-labile semicarbazone linkage and with a photolabile protecting group to produce the corresponding prodrug. Controlled release of the drug-ketone analog was demonstrated in vitro for both systems. This study provides a general approach to obtain taggable ketone analogs directly from bioactive heteroarene compounds with limited options for conjugation. We anticipate that this sodium ketal-sulfinate reagent will be useful for derivatization of other heteroarene-based drugs to obtain ketone-taggable analogs with retained efficacy.