Commonly Prescribed Medications and Potential False-positive Urine Drug Screens

Nancy C. Brahm; Lynn L. Yeager; Mark D. Fox; Kevin C. Farmer; Tony A. Palmer


Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2010;67(16):1344-1350. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose. The implications of potential false-positive urine drug screen (UDS) results for patients receiving commonly prescribed medications were evaluated.
Summary. A comprehensive literature review was conducted to identify false-positive UDSs associated with all clinic formulary medications, as well as common nonprescription medications. The references of each report describing a medication whose use was associated with false-positive UDS results were also reviewed. If a class effect was suspected, additional agents in the category were searched. A total of 25 reports of false-positive UDS results were identified. Categories of medications included antihistamines, antidepressants, antibiotics, analgesics, antipsychotics, and nonprescription agents. Reports of false-positive results were found for the following formulary and nonprescription medications brompheniramine, bupropion, chlorpromazine, clomipramine, dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, ibuprofen, naproxen, promethazine, quetiapine, quinolones (ofloxacin and gatifloxacin), ranitidine, sertraline, thioridazine, trazodone, venlafaxine, verapamil, and a nonprescription nasal inhaler. False-positive results for amphetamine and methamphetamine were the most commonly reported. False-positive results for methadone, opioids, phencyclidine, barbiturates, cannabinoids, and benzodiazepines were also reported in patients taking commonly used medications. The most commonly used tests to screen urine for drugs of abuse are immunoassays, even though false-positive results for drugs of abuse have been reported with a number of these rapid-screening products. Results from such tests should be confirmed using additional analytical methods, including gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
Conclusion. A number of routinely prescribed medications have been associated with triggering false-positive UDS results. Verification of the test results with a different screening test or additional analytical tests should be performed to avoid adverse consequences for the patients.


The potential for false-positive urine drug screen (UDS) results for substances of abuse presents a therapeutic selection dilemma for the treating health care professional. While this problem is reported with specific medications, the extent of the problem in a clinic serving indigent patients and the medically underserved has not been evaluated. In particular, the use of medications with the potential for false-positive UDS results may present a significant liability for individuals required to undergo random or periodic UDSs as a component of a recovery or court-ordered monitoring program[1,2] or as a condition of employment.[1,3,4] In addition, false-positive UDS results may affect the clinician–patient relationship by raising issues of trust.[5] This article identifies commonly used medications associated with reports of false-positive UDSs.


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