JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

'False-positive' and 'false-negative' test results in clinical urine drug testing

Gary M Reisfield, Bruce A Goldberger, Roger L Bertholf
Bioanalysis 2009, 1 (5): 937-52
21083064
The terms 'false-positive' and 'false-negative' are widely used in discussions of urine drug test (UDT) results. These terms are inadequate because they are used in different ways by physicians and laboratory professionals and they are too narrow to encompass the larger universe of potentially misleading, inappropriate and unexpected drug test results. This larger universe, while not solely comprised of technically 'true' or 'false' positive or negative test results, presents comparable interpretive challenges with corresponding clinical implications. In this review, we propose the terms 'potentially inappropriate' positive or negative test results in reference to UDT results that are ambiguous or unexpected and subject to misinterpretation. Causes of potentially inappropriate positive UDT results include in vivo metabolic conversions of a drug, exposure to nonillicit sources of a drug and laboratory error. Causes of potentially inappropriate negative UDT results include limited assay specificity, absence of drug in the urine, presence of drug in the urine, but below established assay cutoff, specimen manipulation and laboratory error. Clinical UDT interpretation is a complicated task requiring knowledge of recent prescription, over-the-counter and herbal drug administration, drug metabolism and analytical sensitivities and specificities.

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