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Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2017 Sep;54(6):433-445. doi: 10.1080/10408363.2017.1385053. Epub 2017 Oct 9.

Urine and oral fluid drug testing in support of pain management.

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a Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine , University of Rochester Medical Center , Rochester , NY , USA.
b Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine , Tufts Medical Center , Boston , MA , USA.
c Immunalysis Corporation , Pomona , CA , USA.


In recent years, the abuse of opioid drugs has resulted in greater prevalence of addiction, overdose, and deaths attributable to opioid abuse. The epidemic of opioid abuse has prompted professional and government agencies to issue practice guidelines for prescribing opioids to manage chronic pain. An important tool available to providers is the drug test for use in the initial assessment of patients for possible opioid therapy, subsequent monitoring of compliance, and documentation of suspected aberrant drug behaviors. This review discusses the issues that most affect the clinical utility of drug testing in chronic pain management with opioid therapy. It focuses on the two most commonly used specimen matrices in drug testing: urine and oral fluid. The advantages and disadvantages of urine and oral fluid in the entire testing process, from specimen collection and analytical methodologies to result interpretation are reviewed. The analytical sensitivity and specificity limitations of immunoassays used for testing are examined in detail to draw attention to how these shortcomings can affect result interpretation and influence clinical decision-making in pain management. The need for specific identification and quantitative measurement of the drugs and metabolites present to investigate suspected aberrant drug behavior or unexpected positive results is analyzed. Also presented are recent developments in optimization of test menus and testing strategies, such as the modification of the standard screen and reflexed-confirmation testing model by eliminating some of the initial immunoassay-based tests and proceeding directly to definitive testing by mass spectrometry assays.


Pain management; drug test; immunoassay; mass spectrometry; opioids; oral fluid; urine

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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