FDA and NIH call for research on drug-detection tools


In a recent commentary, the NIH and FDA are urging leaders to increase research on drug-detection tools such as fentanyl test strips, along with removing barriers to access.

FDA and NIH call for research on drug-detection tools | Image Credit: © peopleimages.com - © peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com.

FDA and NIH call for research on drug-detection tools | Image Credit: © peopleimages.com - © peopleimages.com - stock.adobe.com.

Leaders from the FDA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have called for gaps in research on fentanyl test strips and other drug-detection tools to be addressed through commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is vital for the research, development, implementation of drug-checking tools to be improved to reduce the prevalence of overdose deaths. Tools for detecting drugs have been indicated to save lives, but many individuals struggle to access them because of barriers such as state or legal prohibitions.

In their commentary, the FDA and NIH encourage researchers and agencies to increase fentanyl test strip efficacy and drug-checking tool development through collaboration. The organizations also hope to remove barriers preventing access to these tools.

Overdose from opioid led to over 60,000 deaths in US individuals aged 15 to 54 years in 2021. In this population, opioid caused more deaths than COVID-19, with extremely potent opioid fentanyl being the source of many deaths.

Without aid, it is difficult to detect extremely potent opioid fentanyl, as it is often mixed with other illicit substances such as cocaine, heroin, xylazine, and methamphetamine. The safety of individuals at risk of overdose may be improved at home and in public if laws preventing the use of drug-checking tools are reduced.

There is a lack of data on how fentanyl test strips impact public health despite currently being the most well-known and easily distributed drug-checking tools. Test products only developed for identifying substances in illegal drugs also do not receive regulation from the FDA. This highlights a need for drug-testing products to be researched for feasibility and efficacy.

Along with researching drug-testing products in clinical settings, the organization stated models should be developed to ensure appropriate implementation of drug-testing strategies. The NIH has encouraged research proposals for drug-testing tools, including fentanyl test strips, and the FDA hopes to work with manufacturers on point-of-care devices for human use.


NIH and FDA leaders call for more research, lower barriers to improve and implement drug-checking tools amid overdose epidemic. National Institutes of Health. June 12, 2023. Accessed June 13, 2023. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-fda-leaders-call-more-research-lower-barriers-improve-implement-drug-checking-tools-amid-overdose-epidemic

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