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Choosing the right laboratory: A review of clinical and forensic toxicology services for urine drug testing in pain management

Gary M. Reisfield, MD, Bruce A. Goldberger, PhD, Roger L. Bertholf, PhD


Urine drug testing (UDT) services are provided by a variety of clinical, forensic, and reference/specialty laboratories. These UDT services differ based on the principal activity of the laboratory. Clinical laboratories provide testing primarily focused on medical care (eg, emergency care, inpatients, and outpatient clinics), whereas forensic laboratories perform toxicology tests related to postmortem and criminal investigations, and drug-free workplace programs. Some laboratories now provide UDT specifically designed for monitoring patients on chronic opioid therapy. Accreditation programs for clinical laboratories have existed for nearly half a century, and a federal certification program for drug-testing laboratories was established in the 1980s. Standards of practice for forensic toxicology services other than workplace drug testing have been established in recent years. However, no accreditation program currently exists for UDT in pain management, and this review considers several aspects of laboratory accreditation and certification relevant to toxicology services, with the intention to provide guidance to clinicians in their selection of the appropriate laboratory for UDT surveillance of their patients on opioid therapy.


urine drug testing, clinical laboratory, forensic laboratory, forensic toxicology, pain management, opioid therapy, accreditation, certification, point-of-care testing, immunoassay, drugs of abuse in urine, drug screening, confirmation

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