Impact of Laboratory Practices on Interlaboratory Variability in Therapeutic Drug Monitoring of Immunosuppressive Drugs

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Abstract

The immunosuppressants cyclosporine, tacrolimus, sirolimus, everolimus, and probably also mycophenolic acid require therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM)–guided dosing to ensure that blood concentrations are kept within the target range in transplant patients. Reliable, accurate, and precise test methods are therefore essential to effectively monitor levels and to make proper dose adjustments. Data from proficiency testing programs have shown substantial interlaboratory variability. Only few attempts have been made to study the underlying causes. The aim of this study was to systematically document current practices used for immunosuppressant drug TDM in clinical laboratories and identify methodological and practice differences, which may cause the variability observed among laboratories. Data collection was primarily conducted by a structured Web-based survey. Invitations to participate in the survey were distributed to clinical laboratories providing immunosuppressant drug TDM. Surveys were completed by 76 laboratories in 14 countries. The results of our survey suggest that there are 3 main reasons for interlaboratory variability: (1) lack of standardization of laboratory procedures and workflows starting with sample collection and handling, (2) lack of use of appropriate reference materials (eg, isotope-labeled internal standards for liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectroscopy), and (3) poor compliance with internationally accepted good laboratory practice guidelines (eg, related to quality control, quality assurance, validation, training of personnel). The results of the survey also suggest that interlaboratory variability is a multifactorial problem. Technical-level consensus on laboratory operational procedures, quality systems, and personnel training will be of great importance to improve quality and interlaboratory comparability.

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