Nearly 15,000 people die every year of overdoses involving prescription painkillers. 1 in 20 people in the United States, age 12 or older, reported using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in the past year. Since 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
I previously mentioned in an earlier blog how the CDC has described the misuse of painkillers to be at epidemic levels. The CDC believes that, “Improving the way prescription painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people who misuse, abuse or overdose from these powerful drugs, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment.” Nearly half a million emergency department visits in 2009 were due to people misusing or abusing prescription painkillers and it has only become worse since. Health insurers have determined that nonmedical use of prescription painkillers costs health insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs. The quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices was 4 times larger in 2010 than in 1999.
We know that the US government is tracking prescription drug overdose trends to better understand the epidemic. The CDC believes that educating health care providers and the public about drug abuse and overdose is key in helping to cull this rising problem. The CDC also believes that developing, evaluating and promoting programs and policies shown to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse and overdose, while making sure patients have access to safe effective pain treatment is a step in the right direction. States are being pushed to start or improve prescription drug monitoring programs, electronic databases to track all prescription painkillers within each state. Professional licensing boards are being pushed to take action against inappropriate prescribing trends by healthcare professionals.
Insurers are being pushed to set up prescription claims review programs to identify and address improper prescribing and use of painkillers and they are being encouraged to increase coverage for other treatments to reduce pain, such as physical therapy, and for substance abuse treatment. Screening and monitoring for substance abuse and mental health problems is heavily recommended by the CDC and legislation and regulations are beginning to require the use of monitoring programs such as toxicology point-of-service and confirmation testing.
It is no longer a matter of “if” toxicology testing will be required for you to operate and prescribe any mind altering prescription, as you can see it is “when.” These programs are in place to monitor your patients as well as any healthcare provider writing prescriptions. Regulations are looking to remove any clinics suspected of practicing as a “pill mill.” Prescription drug monitoring programs are only the first step towards state-wide and/or nation-wide prescription writing and patient monitoring.
It has become standard practice to operate under the umbrella that toxicology testing provides. There is no more wondering what it says to your patients when you ask them to submit to a toxicology test, the decision has been taken away from the healthcare provider by regulating agencies and licensing boards.
So, what really matters is not if you should test, but who you should utilize to perform your testing? At AMS, we offer a complete choice for toxicology testing from point-of-service urine dipstick testing, to in clinic immunoassay testing, as well as confirmation testing. Our confirmation model is novel in that it strictly adheres to all national and state legal restrictions while providing our partners a chance to benefit financially from confirmation testing – something not many toxicology confirmation services can legally provide.
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with your local CAC/representative or feel free to call us at 1-888-315-1519.