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Ten-year results of an international external quality control programme for measurement of anti-tuberculosis drug concentrations.

OBJECTIVES: Participation in an external (interlaboratory) quality control (QC) programme is an essential part of quality assurance as it provides laboratories with valuable insights into their analytical performance. We describe the 10 year results of an international QC programme for the measurement of anti-tuberculosis (TB) drugs.

METHODS: Each year, two rounds were organized in which serum (or plasma) samples, spiked with known concentrations of anti-TB drugs, were provided to participating laboratories for analysis. Reported measurements within 80%-120% of weighed-in concentrations were considered accurate. Mixed model linear regression was performed to assess the effect of the measured drug, concentration level, analytical technique and performing laboratory on the absolute inaccuracy.

RESULTS: By 2022, 31 laboratories had participated in the QC programme and 13 anti-TB drugs and metabolites were included. In total 1407 measurements were reported. First-line TB drugs (isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol) represented 58% of all measurements. Overall, 83.2% of 1407 measurements were accurate, and the median absolute inaccuracy was 7.3% (IQR, 3.3%-15.1%). The absolute inaccuracy was related to the measured anti-TB drug and to the performing laboratory, but not to the concentration level or to the analytical technique used. The median absolute inaccuracies of rifampicin and isoniazid were relatively high (10.2% and 10.9%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: The 10 year results of this external QC programme illustrate the need for continuous external QC for the measurement of anti-TB drugs for research and patient care purposes, because one in six measurements was inaccurate. Participation in the programme alerts laboratories to previously undetected analytical problems.

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