Comparison of nonradioactive microtiter plate enzyme immunoassays for the sensitive detection of fentanyl

Forensic Sci Int. 2000 Sep 11;113(1-3):353-7. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(00)00224-3.


Fentanyl is a very strong opioid with analgesic properties that are approximately 80 times stronger than those of morphine and therefore is used in major surgery and treatment of pain in tumor patients. Cases of fentanyl abuse by intravenous injection, inhalation, oral or nasal application have been reported especially in the USA. Therapeutic levels of fentanyl are as low as 1 ng/ml of serum and therefore a screening test must have a detection limit below that concentration. Recently three non-radioactive enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) have become commercially available from COZART, STC and DIAGNOSTIX, all of them supplied by MAHSAN Diagnostika for evaluation with serum samples from forensic and clinical cases. A calibration curve is obtained with samples that contain 0, 0.1, 0.5, 1 and 5 ng fentanyl per ml of negative serum. The calibration curve of COZART is especially in the low range, steeper than those of STC and DIAGNOSTIX. The cut-off for all these EIAs, however, can be set at 0.5 ng/ml. After the administration of therapeutic doses, fentanyl concentrations were between 3 and more than 5 ng/ml as determined with the EIAs. The presence of the typical drugs of abuse, e.g. heroin, methadone, cocaine, cannabinoids and amphetamines including the derivatives of methylenedioxyamphetamine, don't generate false-positive results. No cross-reactivity was also observed at toxic levels of benzodiazepines and paracetamol and therapeutic levels of barbiturates, phenothiazines, antidepressants and analgesics. The EIAs tested so far appear to be suitable for the detection of fentanyl at therapeutic levels. False-positive results or cross-reactivity towards other compounds have not been observed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / blood*
  • Calibration
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Fentanyl / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / instrumentation
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / methods*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / standards*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / blood*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic / standards*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic / supply & distribution
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Fentanyl