March 12, 2018 – Test Strips


Anchor lead: Can something as simple as a paper test strip help stem the tide of opioid overdoses? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Opioid overdoses continue unabated, with the opioid fentanyl increasingly implicated, the latest data show. Susan Sherman, a professor of public health at Johns Hopkins, says the numbers are startling.

Sherman: The numbers starting shooting up with fentanyl 2013, it’s just over five years. Here in Maryland we have a 38-fold increase in fentanyl death in five years: 11

Sherman and colleagues have just completed a study looking at methods to let drug users test their drugs for fentanyl, comparing three approaches, and finding that simple test strips are most practical.

Sherman:  The strips were the most reliable and valid. They were able to detect the highest percentage that fentanyl was present in a drug when it was present, and when it was not present when it was not present. And these were validated by mass spec used in criminal justice settings. We tested personal use street samples so it mimicked what would happen in a public health setting in a syringe exchange if someone came and tested their drugs.  :24

Sherman says such harm reduction strategies must be employed to stop our tragic number of opioid overdoses. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.