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J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Oct;36(8):541-7. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks063. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

Improved detection of opioid use in chronic pain patients through monitoring of opioid glucuronides in urine.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


When chronic pain patients are suspected of being non-compliant, their therapy can be withdrawn. Therefore, sensitive and specific confirmatory testing is important for identifying diversion and adherence. This work aimed to develop a novel liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) method to detect 14 opioids and six opioid glucuronide metabolites in urine with minimal sample preparation. Analytes included were morphine, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, norfentanyl, 6-monoacetylmorphine, meperidine, normeperidine, propoxyphene, methadone, buprenorphine, morphine-3-glucuronide, morphine-6-glucuronide, oxymorphone glucuronide, hydromorphone glucuronide, codeine-6-glucuronide and norbuprenorphine glucuronide. Samples were processed by centrifugation and diluted in equal volume with a deuterated internal standard containing 14 opioids and four opioid glucuronides. The separation of all compounds was complete in nine minutes. The assay was linear between 10 and 1,000 ng/mL (fentanyl 0.25-25 ng/mL). Intra-assay imprecision (500 ng/mL, fentanyl 12.5 ng/mL) ranged from 1.0 to 8.4% coefficient of variation. Inter-assay precision ranged from 2.9 to 6.0%. Recovery was determined by spiking five patient specimens with opioid and opioid glucuronide standards at 100 ng/mL (fentanyl 2.5 ng/mL). Recoveries ranged from 82 to 107% (median 98.9%). The method correlated with our current quantitative LC-MS-MS assay for opioids, which employs different chromatography. Internal standards were not available for every analyte to critically evaluate for ion suppression. Instead, a novel approach was designed to achieve the most rigorous quality control possible, in which the recovery of each analyte was evaluated in each negative sample.

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