Diagnosis gone awry: A flawed drug test could be sending thousands of innocent people to jail each year

Jackson, Brian brian.jackson at ARUPLAB.COM
Tue Jul 12 19:16:51 UTC 2016

Absolutely terrifying article; another indictment of our truly dysfunctional criminal justice system.

We see analogous issues within healthcare settings.  Drug testing is a huge industry, including both point-of-care devices and a range of commercial labs.  At our lab we get calls all the time from physicians, nurses, and social workers asking whether a set of test results means that the patient was abusing or diverting a particular drug or not.  Potential outcomes include expelling patients from pain management programs, removal of newborns from their mothers, and in some cases referral to the police.  Even scientifically "good" drug testing technologies often have interpretative subtleties due to complex and variable metabolic pathways, not to mention antibody cross-reactivity.  Outside of healthcare settings, drug testing is increasingly being used by employers or even parents checking up on their teenagers.

We're pleased to field these interpretive phone calls.  What's worrisome is not knowing how many misunderstandings occur each day when the decision maker doesn't seek clarification, and what sorts of decisions might result from those misunderstandings.

--Brian Jackson
From: Mark Graber [graber.mark at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 12:09 PM
Subject: [IMPROVEDX] Diagnosis gone awry: A flawed drug test could be sending thousands of innocent people to jail each year

This is a disturbing article in this week’s NY Times magazine on the roadside tests police use to detect narcotics.  People are being jailed for narcotics possession based on tests that have high, and unknown, rates of false positive results.



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