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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1991 Jun;35(6):1160-4.

Drug level monitoring in a double-blind multicenter trial: false-positive zidovudine measurements in AIDS clinical trials group protocol 019.

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Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


Twenty-three different laboratories using four different assay methods reported zidovudine (ZDV; azidothymidine) measurements in a double-blind trial of ZDV for asymptomatic human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients (AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 019). The risk of false-positive ZDV measurements was defined with coded specimens containing no ZDV in a quality control testing program. This testing identified six problem laboratories which reported ZDV levels of greater than or equal to 100 ng/ml for specimens with no ZDV; all of these laboratories used high-performance liquid chromatography. These six laboratories reported a disproportionately high fraction of positive assays for subjects randomized to the placebo group (31% for these 6 laboratories versus 4% for the other 17 laboratories; P less than 0.0001). The high number of false-positive ZDV results reported by these six laboratories suggested that many of the positive results that they reported for patient specimens were also false-positive results. This hypothesis was examined by retesting specimens from patients in the placebo group that had been reported as positive by these laboratories. Ninety percent (19 of 21) of these specimens were negative on retesting at the reference laboratory. These results confirm the hypothesis; they demonstrate the need for quality control testing to avoid the misinterpretation of multicenter trials because of incorrect laboratory data.

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