Determining zolpidem compliance: urinary metabolite detection and prevalence in chronic pain patients

J Anal Toxicol. 2014 Oct;38(8):513-8. doi: 10.1093/jat/bku068.


Zolpidem (Ambien(®)) is the most prescribed insomnia treatment in the USA; however, little is known about zolpidem metabolite excretion in chronic pain patients. As zolpidem is extensively metabolized in vivo to zolpidem 4-phenyl carboxylic acid (ZCA), metabolite detection may provide improved accuracy for compliance determinations, thereby improving clinical decisions. Zolpidem and ZCA were extracted from 1 mL human urine by mixed-mode solid-phase extraction. Samples were analyzed by LC-MS-MS using positive electrospray ionization with multiple reaction monitoring mode employed for detection and quantification. Gradient chromatographic separation was achieved with a reversed-phase column in a rapid 1.8 min analysis. The assay was linear from 4 to 1,000 µg/L for zolpidem and 4 to 10,000 µg/L for ZCA. Interday recovery (bias) and imprecision (n = 20) were 100-107% of target and 2.4-3.7% relative standard deviation, respectively. Extraction efficiencies were 78-90%. Pain compliance samples (n = 3,142) were de-identified and analyzed for zolpidem and ZCA. Zolpidem was detected greater than limit of quantification in 720 specimens (22.9%), while ZCA was detected in 1,579 specimens (50.3%). Only five specimens contained zolpidem alone. ZCA was observed without parent zolpidem in 864 specimens, thereby increasing population detection rates by 27.5%. Addition of a zolpidem metabolite to compliance determinations substantially improved detection for zolpidem intake and also should prove useful in clinical and forensic settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / urine
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / urine*
  • Limit of Detection
  • Pyridines / urine*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Solid Phase Extraction
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Zolpidem


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Pyridines
  • Zolpidem
  • zolpidem carboxylic acid