Catching Fakes: New Markers of Urine Sample Validity and Invalidity

J Anal Toxicol. 2017 Mar 1;41(2):121-126. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkw119.


Urine drug testing is common for workplace drug testing, prescription management, emergency medicine and the criminal justice system. Unsurprisingly, with the significant consequences based upon the results of urine drug testing, a donor in need of concealing the contents of their sample is highly motivated to cheat the process. Procedures and safeguards ensuring sample validity are well known, and include measuring sample temperature at the time of collection, and laboratory measurements of creatinine, specific gravity and pH. Synthetic urine samples are available and are designed to deceive all aspects of urine drug testing, including validity testing. These samples are sophisticated enough to contain biological levels of creatinine, and are at a physiological pH and specific gravity. The goal of our research was to develop new procedures designed to distinguish authentic samples from masquerading synthetic samples. We aimed to identify substances in commercial synthetic urines not expected to be present in a biological sample distinguishing fake specimens. Additionally, we aimed to identify and employ endogenous compounds in addition to creatinine for identifying biological samples. We successfully identified two compounds present in synthetic urines that are not present in biological samples and use them as markers of invalidity. Four new endogenous markers for validity were successfully evaluated. Validity assessment was further aided by monitoring metabolites of nicotine and caffeine. When the method was applied to patient samples, 2% of samples were identified as inconsistent with natural urine samples, even though they met the current acceptance criteria for creatinine, pH and specific gravity.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Drug Monitoring / methods*
  • Drug Monitoring / standards
  • Ethylene Glycols / urine
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / urine*
  • Specimen Handling / standards*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / standards
  • Thiazoles / urine
  • Urinalysis / standards*


  • Biomarkers
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Thiazoles
  • Creatinine
  • 1,2-benzisothiazoline-3-one