HAIRVEQ is a proficiency testing program for hair analysis of illicit drugs organized by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Rome, Italy) and the Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica (Barcelona, Spain). The aim of the three exercises performed in 2006 was the evaluation of 32 laboratories' performance when analyzing the same hair sample containing opiates, cocaine and methadone, after carrying out some specific educational interventions. In the first round, the sample was sent to be analyzed following laboratory routine methodology. In the second round, standard operating procedures (SOP) for hair testing including sample preparation, method validation and qualitative and quantitative data evaluation, and an open hair sample for SOP training were also sent together with other hair samples including the one used for performance evaluation. After the second round, a workshop was held with participant laboratories to discuss methodological issues and interpretation of obtained results. An additional amount of open samples was distributed to the laboratories for implementing the SOPs. In the third round, the same unknown sample containing opiates, cocaine and methadone was resent for the final evaluation of laboratory performance. In the first round, 11 incorrect qualitative results (10 false negative and 1 false positive) were reported by seven laboratories (22%), in the second round, a reduction in the number of incorrect results was observed (4 false negatives and 1 false positive were reported by four laboratories, 13%) and in the third round, 5 false positives and 5 false negatives were reported by seven laboratories (22%). Concerning quantitative results, the scatter was similar between the three rounds and similar to the ones reported by other proficiency tests in hair analysis. More educational actions should be addressed to a group of laboratories, which did not yet show satisfying qualitative and quantitative results. © 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Drugs of abuse
- External proficiency testing