Against the Rising Tide: Looking for Biostatisticians and Epidemiologists to help shape Drug-Testing Policy to be more Evidence-Based

Wanted!–a Few Honest Statisticians, Biostatisticans and Epidemiologists who want to make a difference..

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It is only a few public policy steps and minor changes in state regulatory statutes before what is described in the ASAM White Paper on Drug Testing comes to fruition.  Before we know it the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industries “New Paradigm” as described here by Robert Dupont will be ushered in.  From the ASAM white Paper:

“THIS WHITE PAPER ENCOURAGES WIDER AND “SMARTER” USE OF DRUG TESTING WITHIN THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE AND, BEYOND THAT,BROADLY WITHIN AMERICAN SOCIETY. SMARTER DRUG TESTING MEANS INCREASED USE OF RANDOM TESTING* RATHER THAN THE MORE COMMON SCHEDULED TESTING,* AND IT MEANS TESTING NOT ONLY URINE BUT ALSO OTHER MATRICES SUCH AS BLOOD, ORAL FLUID (SALIVA), HAIR, NAILS, SWEAT AND BREATH WHEN THOSE MATRICES MATCH THE INTENDED ASSESSMENT PROCESS. IN ADDITION, SMARTER TESTING MEANS TESTING BASED UPON CLINICAL INDICATION FOR A BROAD AND ROTATING PANEL OF DRUGS RATHER THAN ONLY TESTING FOR THE TRADITIONAL FIVE-DRUG PANEL.”

Backed by the multi-billion dollar drug and alcohol testing, assessment and treatment industry the public policy positions of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have invariably passed. There has been little if any meaningful opposition.

To prevent this future drug testing dystopia, that includes testing schoolchildren, we need to take a step back and analyze the reliability and credibility of the “evidence-base” behind these multiple non-FDA approved (Introduced as Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs) to bypass FDA approval) “forensic” drug and alcohol tests and testing devices (The alcohol biomarkers EtG, EtS, PEth; SCRAM (Subcutaneous Remote Alcohol Monitoring Bracelet);CDPB (Cellular Digital Photo Breathalyzer); and Hair Testing- Psychemedics, etc.) the ASAM proposes be used on the population at large.  These tests include nail, hair, saliva, breath, blood and urine and they plan on utilizing the Medical Profession as a urine collection agency by calling this testing a “medical evaluation” rather than “monitoring” for drug and alcohol use.   This change in semantics enables them to bypass the usual forensic drug testing protocol (that includes strict chain-of-custody collection and MRO review) designed to minimize false-positives because the results of erroneous test can be grave and far reaching.  According to the ASAM white paper the “clinical” collection of specimens as is good enough as the results of a positive test will result in “treatment” rather than “punishment.”

Amazingly, there has been no Academic review of these tests, let alone a Cochrane type critical analysis.  It is essentially untapped territory.  In addition there has been no Institute of Medicine type Conflict of Interest Analysis.  

And that is why I am asking for help from statisticians, biostatisticians and epidemiologists.  The task would entail a review of the literature prior to the introduction of these tests for evidence base of forensic applicability (there essentially is none) and a review of the literature peri-and post marketing of these devices to assess the reliability and credibility of the underlying methodology and ascertain the evidence-base.  The goal would be publication in both academic journals and presentation to the general public through media publication with the assistance of investigative journalists and other writers. The goal is to get the truth out about these tests and allow both the medial profession and public at large to awaken to the menace this represents.
 I can’t pay you but you would be combating injustice, corruption and dishonesty.   You would be doing your part in helping the Medical Profession, honest and decent doctors, our country and  perhaps our future.  

Science vs. Pseudoscience

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Wanted!–a Few Statisticians, Biostatisticians and Epidemiologists who want to make a difference in Medicine, Society and our Future

 “That everyone shall exert himself in that state of life in which he is placed, to practice true humanity towards his fellow men, on that depends the future of mankind.” – Albert Schweitzer 
“By and by never comes” –St Augustine

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“A day’s impact is better than a month of dead pull”-Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 I am looking for a few honest and credible statisticians, biostatisticians or epidemiologists who want to make a difference in the spirit  of service and helping others.  I can’t pay you but you would be combating injustice, corruption and dishonesty.   You would be doing your part in helping the Medical Profession, honest and decent doctors, our country and  perhaps our future.  

It is only a few public policy steps and minor changes in state regulatory statutes before what is described in the ASAM White Paper on Drug Testing comes to fruition.  Before we know it the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industries “New Paradigm” as described here by Robert Dupont will be ushered in as it did with doctors; not with a bang but a whimper.  From the ASAM white Paper:

“THIS WHITE PAPER ENCOURAGES WIDER AND “SMARTER” USE OF DRUG TESTING WITHIN THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE AND, BEYOND THAT,BROADLY WITHIN AMERICAN SOCIETY. SMARTER DRUG TESTING MEANS INCREASED USE OF RANDOM TESTING* RATHER THAN THE MORE COMMON SCHEDULED TESTING,* AND IT MEANS TESTING NOT ONLY URINE BUT ALSO OTHER MATRICES SUCH AS BLOOD, ORAL FLUID (SALIVA), HAIR, NAILS, SWEAT AND BREATH WHEN THOSE MATRICES MATCH THE INTENDED ASSESSMENT PROCESS. IN ADDITION, SMARTER TESTING MEANS TESTING BASED UPON CLINICAL INDICATION FOR A BROAD AND ROTATING PANEL OF DRUGS RATHER THAN ONLY TESTING FOR THE TRADITIONAL FIVE-DRUG PANEL.”

To prevent this future drug testing dystopia, that includes testing schoolchildren, we need to take a step back and analyze the reliability and credibility of the “evidence-base” behind these multiple non-FDA approved forensic drug and alcohol tests and testing devices the ASAM proposes be used on the population at large utilizing the Medical Profession as a urine collection agency and bypassing forensic drug testing protocol by calling this “evaluation” and treatment rather than “monitoring” and punishment. New definitions, loopholes, secrecy and subterfuge are the bread and butter of these prohibitionist profiteers.

Amazingly, there has been no Academic review of these tests, let alone a Cochrane type critical analysis.  It is essentially untapped territory.  In addition there has been no Institute of Medicine type Conflict of Interest Analysis.  And that is why I am asking for help from statisticians, biostatisticians and epidemiologists.  The task would entail a review of the literature prior to the introduction of these tests for evidence base of forensic applicability (there essentially is none) and a review of the literature peri-and post marketing of these devices to assess the reliability and credibility of the underlying methodology and ascertain the evidence-base.  The goal would be publication in both academic journals and presentation to the general public through media publication with the assistance of investigative journalists and other writers. The goal is to get the truth out about these tests and allow both the medial profession and public at large to awaken to the menace this presents to medicine, our society and our future.

 Lack of Evidence-Base, Bias and Conflicts of Interest:  Making the Data Fit the Hypothesis

I am no epidemiologist or statistician but as with pornography I know junk-science when I see it.  Almost all of these tests were introduced with little or no evidence-base and, as with most of their endeavors, they did it below board via loopholes and cutting corners.

The overwhelming majority of papers are small, methodologically flawed, non-randomized, non-blinded  retrospective studies in that appear to make the data fit the hypothesis.   The authors can invariably be linked to those profiting from the tests of the testing process ( the patent holder, doctors associated with the drug testing labs, ASAM or FSPHP, Robert Dupont, Greg Skipper, etc.)

 

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) was introduced in 1999 as a biomarker for alcohol consumption,1 and was subsequently suggested as a tool to monitor health professionals by Dr. Gregory Skipper because of its high sensitivity to ethanol ingestion.2   

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Described as the  “innovator of EtG as an alcohol biomarker,” Skipper and  Friedrich Wurst,  “convinced” NMS labs in Pennsylvania “to start performing EtG testing in 2002.

The study most often cited as 100% proof that there is 100% accuracy in EtG testing proving alcohol consumption involved a mere 35 forensic psychiatric inpatients in Germany that was published in 2003.3  

Shortly thereafter the Physician Health Programs began using it in monitoring doctors and other professional monitoring programs soon followed.

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Up until the birth of the EtG tests used for forensic drug and alcohol monitoring had to go through the arduous, expensive and necessary FDA approval process.   The LDT pathway was designed to develop simple tests with little risk that have  low market potential (i;e. the cost of the normal FDA approval process would prohibit them from coming to market).  The LDT pathway was designed to improve patient care and help improve diagnosis and treatment. It was not designed for forensic tests.  LDT approval does not require in vivo testing.  It is essentially an honor system and to develop an LDT it is not even necessary to prove that the test is actually testing what it is purportedly testing for (validity).

So with little to no evidence base they introduced the EtG, had it developed and marketed as a LDT in collusion with unscrupulous labs, and then began using it on physicians being monitored by State PHPs. This then spread to other monitoring organizations in which there was a large power-differential between those ordering the tests and those being tested (criminal-justice, other professional monitoring programs).  These biomarkers have never been used in Federal Drug Testing, SAMHSA approved, DOT, and other organizations where unions or other organizations are present and looking out for the best interests of those being tested.

Another example of how this group removes accountability.  There has been essentially no oversight or regulation of LDTs.  Although there was a recent push for regulation of these tests the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association lobby made sure that forensic tests would be exempt.

They then began publishing “research” on the EtG using the physicians being monitored as subjects. Many of the studies promoting the EtG and other biomarkers can be found  in  Journals that are linked to organizations that are linked to AA and were organized to educate the medical community.

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These small, methodologically flawed studies amount to little more than opinion pieces but   This “evidence-base” is predominantly in biased journals published by biased medical “societies.  
The EtG was subsequently found to be so sensitive that it could measure incidental exposure to alcohol in foods, over the counter cold medications, mouthwash4,5, hand sanitizer gel6, nonalcoholic beer7, and nonalcoholic wine.8  Sauerkraut and bananas have even been shown to cause positive EtG levels.9
The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration warned against using a positive EtG as primary or sole evidence of drinking for disciplinary or legal action.10  The Wall Street Journal in 2006 reported the problems with the EtG to the general public.11   
Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.45.36 PMAs any rational authority would do, the majority of monitoring agencies abandoned the EtG after these flaws were revealed. The PHPs did not.  They continued to use the EtG on doctors uninterruptedly by telling them to avoid any products that could potentially contain alcohol; a ubiquitous substance in the environment. Since that time they have justified and rationalized (EtG)2,12 13  use by sequentially raising cutoff levels from 100 to 250 to 500 to 1000 to 2000 to now unknown and adding other LDTs as “confirmation tests such as Ethyl Sulfate (EtS)14,15 Phosphatidyl-Ethanol ( Peth)16 17 and other devices such as the Subcutaneous Remote Alcohol Monitoring Bracelet (SCRAM) and, their newest device the Cellular Photo Digital Breathalyzer (CPDB) that has recently been launched, just like the EtG Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.00.22 PMwith little to no evidence base other than a pilot study done by Greg Skipper and Robert Dupont.18 
A  2013 article published in an ASAM incubated journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research promotes the Phosphatidyl-ethanol (PEth ) test to confirm drinking.16  The study was done on physicians being monitored by the Alabama Physician Health Program who tested positive for EtG/EtS alcohol biomarkers. It is co-authored by Robert Dupont, Greg Skipper, and Friedrich Wurst and involved 18 subjects who tested positive for EtG/EtS of whom 7 claimed they did not drink.  After finding that 5 of the 7 tested negative for PEth they concluded that “positive PEth testing following positive EtG/EtS results confirms recent drinking.  Hard to wrap your head around the science in that one.Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 1.06.53 PMSkipper is also using both Scram ankle bracelets and the CPDB monitoring in pilots in the Human Interventional Motivational Study (HIMS) Program that was developed in 2009 to “identify, treat and, eventually, re-certify airline pilots with substance abuse problems. 
 
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The Cochrane Collaboration does systematic reviews of the literature using conscientious, explicit, and judicious criteria to in order to produce and disseminate only high quality and evidenced based health care, exclude bias, and enhance transparency. The Cochrane database is a current and evolving database that includes the accuracy of diagnostic tests and is internationally recognized as the standard in evidence based health care.  This benchmark for evidence based health care and systematic reviews, records just 5 controlled trials under the topic ethyl glucuronide.8,19-21 These 5 studies represent the only high-quality evidence regarding EtG applying to EtG. Information provided by the five studies suggests the following, and only the following:

  1. EtG and EtS measurements increase with alcohol ingestion.
  2. The window of detection is shorter than what is commonly proposed (80 hours).
  3. Individual values are variable both within and between subjects.
  4. Non alcoholic wine can cause positive levels.

Notably, there are no studies that fit Cochrane Criteria, other than non-alcoholic wine, that look at the pharmacokinetics of EtG or EtS in terms of dose-response curves, cut-off levels, specificity drug and food interactions, or modes of ingestion.

SAMHSA notes that there is little research on PEth and that EtG, EtS, and PEth “do not have a strong research base,” and that “it is not known at this time how the test results might be affected by the presence of physical diseases, ethnicity, gender, time, or the use of other drugs. Until considerable more research has occurred, use of these markers should be considered experimental.”

Phosphatidylethanol (PEth), SCRAM, and the  yields no data as a test in the Cochrane library.

SAMHSA notes that there is little research on PEth and that EtG, EtS, and PEth “do not have a strong research base,” and that “it is not known at this time how the test results might be affected by the presence of physical diseases, ethnicity, gender, time, or the use of other drugs. Until considerable more research has occurred, use of these markers should be considered experimental.”

Evidence based medicine (EBM) can be defined as the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.22

Medical progress and scientific advancement is occurring so fast that the volume of medical literature is expanding at a rate of greater than 7% per year.23

Evidence based medicine is not restricted to randomized trials and meta-analyses. It involves tracking down the best external evidence with which to answer our clinical questions.22  

Expert opinion is the lowest level of evidence available in the EBM paradigm.24,25

Fortunately, the scientific method is a tool to help people progress toward the truth despite their susceptibilities to confirmation bias and other errors.26

Unfortunately, due to a confluence of factors (including political) this has not been done.  But, unless we want a  future as envisioned by Robert Dupont and explained in the the ASAM White Paper on Drug Testing we need to act now.  This is not a “New Paradigm” but a “New Inquisition.”

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  1. Wurst FM, Kempter C, Seidl S, Alt A. Ethyl glucuronide–a marker of alcohol consumption and a relapse marker with clinical and forensic implications. Alcohol Alcohol. Jan-Feb 1999;34(1):71-77.
  2. Skipper GE, Weinmann W, Thierauf A, et al. Ethyl glucuronide: a biomarker to identify alcohol use by health professionals recovering from substance use disorders. Alcohol Alcohol. Sep-Oct 2004;39(5):445-449.
  3. Wurst FM, Vogel R, Jachau K, et al. Ethyl glucuronide discloses recent covert alcohol use not detected by standard testing in forensic psychiatric inpatients. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. Mar 2003;27(3):471-476.
  4. Costantino A, Digregorio EJ, Korn W, Spayd S, Rieders F. The effect of the use of mouthwash on ethylglucuronide concentrations in urine. J Anal Toxicol. Nov-Dec 2006;30(9):659-662.
  5. Reisfield GM, Goldberger BA, Pesce AJ, et al. Ethyl glucuronide, ethyl sulfate, and ethanol in urine after intensive exposure to high ethanol content mouthwash. J Anal Toxicol. Jun 2011;35(5):264-268.
  6. Rosano TG, Lin J. Ethyl glucuronide excretion in humans following oral administration of and dermal exposure to ethanol. J Anal Toxicol. Oct 2008;32(8):594-600.
  7. Thierauf A, Gnann H, Wohlfarth A, et al. Urine tested positive for ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulphate after the consumption of “non-alcoholic” beer. Forensic Sci Int. Oct 10 2010;202(1-3):82-85.
  8. Hoiseth G, Yttredal B, Karinen R, Gjerde H, Christophersen A. Levels of ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in oral fluid, blood, and urine after use of mouthwash and ingestion of nonalcoholic wine. J Anal Toxicol. Mar 2010;34(2):84-88.
  9. Musshoff F, Albermann E, Madea B. Ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate in urine after consumption of various beverages and foods–misleading results? Int J Legal Med. Nov 2010;124(6):623-630.
  10. Administration SAaMHS. The role of biomarkers in the treatment of alcohol use disorders. In: Advisory SAT, ed2006:1-7.
  11. Helliker K. A test for alcohol–and its flaws. The Wall Street Journal2006.
  12. Wurst FM, Skipper GE, Weinmann W. Ethyl glucuronide–the direct ethanol metabolite on the threshold from science to routine use. Addiction. Dec 2003;98 Suppl 2:51-61.
  13. Wurst FM, Alling C, Aradottir S, et al. Emerging biomarkers: new directions and clinical applications. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. Mar 2005;29(3):465-473.
  14. Anton RF. Commentary on: ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate assays in clinical trials, interpretation, and limitations: results of a dose ranging alcohol challenge study and 2 clinical trials. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. Jul 2014;38(7):1826-1828.
  15. Hernandez Redondo A, Schroeck A, Kneubuehl B, Weinmann W. Determination of ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate from dried blood spots. International journal of legal medicine. Jul 2013;127(4):769-775.
  16. Skipper GE, Thon N, Dupont RL, Baxter L, Wurst FM. Phosphatidylethanol: the potential role in further evaluating low positive urinary ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulfate results. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. Sep 2013;37(9):1582-1586.
  17. Hahn JA, Dobkin LM, Mayanja B, et al. Phosphatidylethanol (PEth) as a biomarker of alcohol consumption in HIV-positive patients in sub-Saharan Africa. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. May 2012;36(5):854-862.
  18. Skipper GE, Thon N, DuPont RL, Campbell MD, Weinmann W, Wurst FM. Cellular photo digital breathalyzer for monitoring alcohol use: a pilot study. European addiction research. 2014;20(3):137-142.
  19. Hoiseth G, Bernard JP, Stephanson N, et al. Comparison between the urinary alcohol markers EtG, EtS, and GTOL/5-HIAA in a controlled drinking experiment. Alcohol Alcohol. Mar-Apr 2008;43(2):187-191.
  20. Wojcik MH, Hawthorne JS. Sensitivity of commercial ethyl glucuronide (ETG) testing in screening for alcohol abstinence. Alcohol Alcohol. Jul-Aug 2007;42(4):317-320.
  21. Sarkola T, Dahl H, Eriksson CJ, Helander A. Urinary ethyl glucuronide and 5-hydroxytryptophol levels during repeated ethanol ingestion in healthy human subjects. Alcohol Alcohol. Jul-Aug 2003;38(4):347-351.
  22. Sackett DL, Rosenberg WM, Gray JA, Haynes RB, Richardson WS. Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t. BMJ. Jan 13 1996;312(7023):71-72.
  23. Norwitz ER, Greenberg JA. Promoting evidence-based medicine. Rev Obstet Gynecol. Summer 2008;1(3):93-94.
  24. Shaneyfelt TM, Centor RM. Reassessment of clinical practice guidelines: go gently into that good night. JAMA. Feb 25 2009;301(8):868-869.
  25. Straus SE, Green ML, Bell DS, et al. Evaluating the teaching of evidence based medicine: conceptual framework. BMJ. Oct 30 2004;329(7473):1029-1032.
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Reliability of hair drug tests up for debate

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see”

― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

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The Birth of Junk-Science in Drug and Alcohol Testing

The attached article concerns the reliability of hair-strand tests routinely accepted in child welfare cases in Ontario   as evidence of parental drug or alcohol abuse.  A positive test can lead to loss of parental custody of children.

The risk for false-positive results appears to be higher in women because of the higher use of alcohol-based hair products and the limitations of these tests are addressed in the article.

Almost 98% of ingested alcohol is eliminated through the liver in an oxidation process that involves its conversion to acetaldehyde and acetic acid, but the remaining 2% is eliminated through the urine, sweat, or breath.1

Ethyl Glucuronide (EtG) was introduced in 1999 as a biomarker for alcohol consumption,2 and was subsequently suggested as a tool to monitor health professionals by Dr. Gregory Skipper, M.D.,  because of its high sensitivity to ethanol ingestion.3

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This minor metabolite of alcohol was reported by  Skipper, M.D. and Friedrich Wurst, M.D., in November 2002 at an international meeting of the American Medical Society, to provide proof of alcohol consumption as much as 5 days after drinking an alcoholic beverage, well after the alcohol itself had been eliminated from the body.

In his study Dr. Skipper arbitrarily chose a value of 100 as a cut-off for EtG. The rationale behind this value is not cited.

In 2003, because of these and other reportedly remarkable results (e.g., positive findings, confirmed by admissions by the tested individuals, after traditional urine tests had registered negative), Skipper pitched the test to National Medical Services, Inc. (NMS labs) and it was developed as a Laboratory Developed Test (LDT).

So began EtG testing began in the United States, and this paved the way for the hair tests described. The urine EtG test introduced by Skipper is the index case and prototype for an array of unproven forensic tests introduced to the market as LDTs.

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The LDT Pathway was not designed for Forensic Drug and Alcohol Testing.  It is an Unregulated Industry.

The LDT pathway was developed for laboratory tests that would not otherwise come to market due to the prohibitive costs of FDA approval (for example a test for a rare disease).

Bringing an LDT to market does not require testing in humans (in vivo). Nor does it require that it be shown the test is testing for what it is purportedly testing for (validity). It is essentially an honor system. It was not designed for “forensic” testing but for simple testing with low risk.

None of this testing is approved by the FDA. It is essentially an unregulated industry.

NMS became a leading proponent of EtG testing and, starting in 2003, began publishing claims promoting the absolute validity and reliability of the EtG in detecting alcohol. Akin to the vitamin and supplement industry those promoting and selling the tests could say anything they want—and they did.

NMS initially established a reporting limit or cutoff of 250ng/ml at or over which EtG test results would be reported as “positive” for drinking alcohol. This was later upped to 500ng/ml, then 1000 ng/ml.

NMS reported it as the “Gold Standard” claiming any value above 250 ng/ml indicated “ethanol consumption.”

It was subsequently found to be so sensitive that it could measure incidental exposure to alcohol in foods, over the counter cold medications, mouthwash4,5, hand sanitizer gel6, nonalcoholic beer7, and nonalcoholic wine.8

As the cutoff value got higher they added another minor metabolite of alcohol, EtS, as a “confirmatory” LDT.

The authors of a 2011 study demonstrating that hand sanitizer alone could result in EtG and EtS concentrations of 1998 and 94 mug/g creatinine concluded that:

“in patients being monitored for ethanol use by urinary EtG concentrations, currently accepted EtG cutoffs do not distinguish between ethanol consumption and incidental exposures, particularly when uine specimens are obtained shortly after sustained use of ethanol containing hand sanitizer.”9

Sauerkraut and bananas have even recently been shown to cause positive EtG levels.10

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A 2010 study found that consumption of baker’s yeast with sugar and water11 led to the formation of elevated EtG and EtS above the standard cutoff. EtG can originate from post-collection synthesis if bacteria is present in the urine.12 Collection and handling routines can result in false-positive samples.13

EtG varies among individuals.14 Factors that may underlie this variability include gender, age, ethnic group, and genetic polymorphisms.

“Exposure to ethanol-containing medications, of which there are many, is another potential source of “false” positives.15

Problems Exposed by Wall Street Journal and SAMHSA

On August 12, 2006, The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article, titled “A Test for Alcohol – And Its Flaws.”.16

Quoting Dr. Skipper, among others, the article includes:

“Little advertised, though, is that EtG can detect alcohol even in people who didn’t drink. Any trace of alcohol may register, even that ingested or inhaled through food, medicine, personal-care products or hand sanitizer.”

“The test ‘can’t distinguish between beer and Purell’ hand sanitizer, says H. Westley Clark, director of the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. . . ‘When you’re looking at loss of job, loss of child, loss of privileges, you want to make sure the test is right”, he says…”

“Use of this screen has gotten ahead of the science,’ says Gregory Skipper…”

Methinks Dr. Skipper might have realized this when he initially proposed it as an accurate test after a pilot study done on only a handful of subjects. Or perhaps when he used the LDT pathway to bypass FDA approval and oversight.

On September 28, 2006, SAMHSA, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, issued an Advisory, which on the first page contained a “grey box” warning, as follows:

Unknown-20“Currently, the use of an EtG test in determining abstinence lacks sufficient proven specificity for use as primary or sole evidence that an individual prohibited from drinking, in a criminal justice or a regulatory compliance context, has truly been drinking. Legal or disciplinary action based solely on a positive EtG, or other test discussed in this Advisory is inappropriate and scientifically unsupportable at this time. These tests should currently be considered as potential valuable clinical tools, but their use in forensic settings is premature.”17

Bias has been identified as a large problem with drug trials.18   Industry-sponsored research is nearly four times as likely to be favorable to the company’s product as NIH-sponsored research.19 As an example, one survey of seventy articles about the safety of Norvasc (amlodipine) found that 96% of the authors who were supportive of the drugs had financial ties to the companies that made them.20

But what about the multi billion dollar drug-testing industry and the financial ties here?Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 7.52.29 PM

Imagine if this was a drug and not a drug-test.

Essentially Greg Skipper and the FSPHP arm of ASAM launched a very lucrative joint business venture with a commercial drug-testing lab. They introduced the test via a loophole as a laboratory developed test.  An LDT has no FDA regulation so the lab was able to promote, market and sell these tests with no meaningful oversight or accountability.  Quest Diagnostics and USDTL are now working with the FSPHP and engaging in the same scheme.

The lab then contracted with state licensing boards and their state PHPs (who designed, implemented and managed drug and alcohol testing programs for nurses and doctors).   A mutually beneficial scheme for the labs (who collect the samples) and the PHPs (who utilize, interpret and report the results.

The PHPs develop the arbitrary cutoff levels based on alleged “scientific” research and the labs promote whatever they say. “Gold-Standard,” “accurate” and “reliable.”  Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 3.12.12 PM

EtG, EtS, Scram, PEth, Soberlink–all unsupported junk science introduced by prohibitionist profiteers without conscience.

How many lives were ruined by this test?   How many careers were lost, families shattered and futures erased. I would venture to say a lot. Just look through all of the legal cases as I have. It is unconscionable. Sociopathic profiteering.

How many committed suicide feeling helpless, hopeless and entrapped?

At the end of a talk entitled  Addicted Professionals: intervention, Evaluation and Treatment, Skipper presents a slide reading “Reporting or Assisting a Troubled Peer?  These doctor’s can’t help themselves….” followed by graphic images of physician suicide.   (see torrance_meeting_2 (4) ).    It is for shock value and morbid humor and it is grotesque.   He could not care less that these were human beings with wives, husbands, children and hopes and dreams.

How many scenes like this were repeated across the country because this guy gamed the system to get an ultra-sensitive test with abysmal specificity for a ubiquitous organic compound approved and marketed as a “forensic” test?

Forensic testing needs to be as close to 100% specific as possible because the results of a positive test can be grave and far reaching.   Getting this test (and all the others) approved and marketed through a loophole and then getting the state Boards and Federation of State Medical Boards to approve them by moral entrepreneurship is unconscionable.    Using the LDT pathway is just another example of how the “impaired physician movement” removes accountability and culpability by bending, ignoring or otherwise making their own rules.

And the labs have taken a “stand your ground” approach. Never admit wrongdoing. Never settle.Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.00.22 PM

In a February 2007 article in the magazine “New Scientist,” Dr. Skipper is quoted

that:

“…there is not yet an agreed threshold concentration that can be used to separate people who have been drinking from those exposed to alcohol from other sources. Below 1000 nanograms of EtG per millilitre of urine is probably ‘innocent’, and above 5000 booze is almost certainly to blame. In between there is a “question zone…”Unknown-12

No Dr. Skipper—it is you who is most certainly to blame. And what of all the people whose lives you ruined by introducing junk science with no evidence base via a regulatory loophole?? “probably innocent?”   Shame on you Dr. Skipper…. Shame..shame..shame.Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 10.00.10 PM

 

  1. Bean P. State of the art contemporary biomarkers of alcohol consumption. MLO Med Lab Obs. Nov 2005;37(11):10-12, 14, 16-17; quiz 18-19.
  2. Wurst FM, Kempter C, Seidl S, Alt A. Ethyl glucuronide–a marker of alcohol consumption and a relapse marker with clinical and forensic implications. Alcohol Alcohol. Jan-Feb 1999;34(1):71-77.
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