Saskatchewan lab’s coding error sends wrong results of drug testing to doctors

By on December 5, 2017


The lab had ways in place to detect coding errors, but additional steps have been put in place to prevent such an error from happening again, O'Byrne said. (Shutterstock)
The lab had ways in place to detect coding errors, but additional steps have been put in place to prevent such an error from happening again, O’Byrne said. (Shutterstock)

REGINA— Saskatchewan’s only drug-testing laboratory says a computer coding error resulted in doctors getting incorrect reports about two drugs that their patients were using.

Patrick O’Byrne, executive director of the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory in Regina, says testing for 42 drugs on 458 patients was done correctly, but wrong information about two drugs codeine and Benadryl was sent to doctors.

O’Byrne says doctors were told their patients did not test positive for the two drugs when in fact they did.

“A coding error occurred in the programming for our laboratory information on Oct. 25,” O’Byrne said Tuesday. “We thought that error had been corrected, but the correction was imperfect and two of the 42 tests were not corrected.

“These should have been in the report as the patients were positive for having codeine and Benadryl in their system, but we did not report that 484 times between Oct. 30 and Nov. 28.”

The lab had ways in place to detect coding errors, but additional steps have been put in place to prevent such an error from happening again, O’Byrne said.

“When we have an error like this we take it very seriously and we have a duty to be transparent with the public.”

The lab tests about 75,000 specimens each year for 42 drugs such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, Ritalin, THC, oxycodone, codeine and Benadryl.

The tests are ordered by physicians “to support patients as they seek treatment for addictions,” O’Byrne said.