Accreditation for Drug Testing Laboratories Explained

Do you really need an accredited testing laboratory?

Drug/alcohol testing laboratories do not have to be accredited in order to analyse samples, i.e., it is not a regulated industry like some regulated industries e.g. financial institutions are regulated by the financial services authority.

However, by holding an accreditation, a laboratory provides evidence of competence to their customers.

What kind of accreditation?

Most labs would either choose to hold ISO:9001 or ISO:17025 accreditation.

ISO:9001 accreditation is the more basic of the two. ISO:9001 is widely used in manufacturing and service organisations to  evaluate their system for managing the quality of their product or service. Whilst effective as a management evaluation tool, ISO 9001 does not evaluate the technical competence of a supplier. This means that the evaluation of a supplier against ISO 9001 does not assure customers that the test results are accurate and reliable. As a consequence, most testing labs choose to be accredited to ISO:17025. The criteria are based on an international standard called ISO/IEC 17025, which is used for evaluating testing laboratories throughout the world.

Why ISO:17025?

ISO:17025 specifically addresses factors relevant to a laboratory’s ability to produce precise, accurate and reliable results.

To ensure continued compliance, accredited facilities are re-examined annually to ensure they maintain their standards of technical expertise.

Accreditation to ISO 17025 includes:

  • Ongoing technical competency of staff;
  • validity and appropriateness of the methods;
  • traceability of measurements and calibrations to national standards;
  • appropriate application of measurement uncertainty at cut-off levels;
  • suitability, calibration and maintenance of test equipment;
  • the testing environment;
  • quality assurance of test, inspection or calibration data;
  • service to customer;
  • adherence to continuous internal audits.

If Testing and Calibration Laboratories comply with the requirements of the International Standard of ISO: 17025 then they also meet the principles of ISO:9001.

Successful participation in Proficiency Testing is what really matters to you!

Testing Laboratories accredited to ISO17025  are required to sucessfully participate in regular proficiency testing programs or inter laboratory comparisons as an on-going demonstration of their competence for the analytes they are accredited.

When using a testing laboratory you could ask whether they participate in proficiency testing programs and could ask to see a copy of their certificate of successful participation for the drugs and analytes you need testing.

Check if the laboratory you are using is accredited for all tests and drugs you need

In the UK, ISO17025 accreditation is granted by UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service). Each testing laboratory is issued with a testing laboratory number. For example, 7484 is Cansford Laboratories’ UKAS Testing Laboratory number.ukaslogo-sm

Accreditation is test specific, in order for a test to be accredited, both the parent drug and metabolite should be detailed on the laboratory’s schedule of accreditation. For example, labs could state they are accredited for testing a hair sample for Cannabis, however, unless they are accredited for the parent drug (THC) together with a metaboilte (e.g. THC-COOH), the Cannabis test as a whole is not accredited.

The details of each lab’s accreditation can be viewed on by clicking here then enter the company name and click on testing labs, this will show if a company is accredited, if they are it will state their schedule of accreditation.

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