New HHS Guidelines for Drug Testing Panels Effective 10/1/17

New HHS Guidelines for Drug Testing Panels Effective 10/1/17

By Jennifer Gladstone

On January 23, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs effective October 1, 2017.

If your organization complies with the HHS standards currently, whether by policy, support of federal testing programs or voluntary drug testing state laws, you must now comply with new panel standards effective October 1, 2017.

If your organization identifies specific drug panels in your current policy, updated policy language should be seriously considered, also covering adulterated specimens, oral fluid testing in shy bladder situations, observed collection safeguards, the emerging legal issues of anti-discrimination protection for medical marijuana card holders in certain states, and pre-duty disclosure of impairing effect drugs and substances for those working in safety-sensitive occupations.

Key points in the guidelines:

  • HHS expanded federal urine workplace drug testing to include four Schedule II opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.
  • HHS raised the lower pH cutoff from 3 to 4 to identify an adulterated specimen. One commentator expects to see an increase in the number of low PH urine test reported as adulterated.
  • HHS removed MDEA for confirmatory testing and added MDA as an initial test analyte. 
  • HHS allowed a Medical Review Officer to recommend the collection of an alternate specimen (e.g., oral fluid) when a donor in their program is unable to provide a sufficient amount of urine specimen at the collection site (shy bladder), as permitted by agency policy.
  • Allows the donor to be observed by a person whose gender matches the donor’s gender (as identified by the donor on the Federal CCF at the beginning or the observed collection), which is determined by the donor’s gender identity. Observed collections must be conducted in a professional manner that minimizes discomfort to the donor, and a medical professional may serve as the monitor, regardless of gender.
  • While the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) will eventually follow the HHS mandatory guidelines, to date the DOT has NOT yet published its final notice.  We expect a DOT announcement shortly after October 1, 2017.

If you are an EBI Client, contact Customer Care via email at or call 844-875-2129 for assistance coordinating updates to your panel configuration.

If you are not already a client, contact us for a free demo!

Additional References:

HHS revised guidelines in its 51 page Federal Register release:

This information is provided by EBI for general educational purposes. It should not be deemed as legal guidance or advice. Always consult with legal counsel for specific advice on applicable laws, industry regulation, and compliance matters. 

About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

One thought on “New HHS Guidelines for Drug Testing Panels Effective 10/1/17

  1. How does these changes affect our drug tests? Will EBI make all the changes including having a person of the same gender observe a donor providing a specimen? Thanks,

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