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Workers comp patients have fewer illicit drugs in systems: Analysis

Posted On: Sep. 10, 2012 12:00 AM CST

Workers compensation patients have illicit drugs in their systems less frequently than patients whose care is paid for by other medical delivery systems, according to a study by a drug monitoring company.

Baltimore-based Ameritox Ltd. said it reviewed a database of nearly 2 million urine samples of patients who were prescribed pain medications and found the presence of illegal drugs in 8.6% of workers comp cases. In contrast, drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin were found in 17.1% of Medicaid patients.

Illicit drugs were found in urine samples of 14.8% of “self-pay” patients, 9.7% of commercial insurance patients and 8.9% of patients whose care was paid by Medicare, according to Ameritox, which provides urine drug monitoring services.

Ameritox also said that it found an absence of pain medications in 34% of patients who had been prescribed the drugs. It said the problem is common across all payer systems. It said its findings show why monitoring patients for adherence to prescription regimens is important for their health.

But amid increasing demand by workers comp payers for urine drug monitoring, observers have said that the workers comp system lacks guidelines and protocols to test adherence to prescribed narcotics regimens.