MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. F. Leland McClure
F. Leland McClure III, MSci, PhD, F-ABFT
Medical science liaison director
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Many physicians associate Quest Diagnostics with their lab service needs because of our leadership in laboratory testing. But Quest is more than a lab, which is why we refer to ourselves as a diagnostic information services provider. This means that we help providers, health plans and even patients use the insights we derive from our lab testing data to deliver better care, quality and outcomes, both for the patient and the managed population.
Our 2016 Quest Diagnostics Health Trends(TM) Prescription Drug Monitoring Report is an example of how we provide important health insights from Quest’s laboratory data. Prescription drug misuse is a major epidemic in the United States. Laboratory testing can help identify if a patient is using or misusing prescribed medications. For instance, lab tests can show evidence of additional medications and other drugs in a patient’s urine specimen, suggesting potentially dangerous drug combinations. Earlier this year, the CDC issued guidelines that call for laboratory testing for patients prescribed certain medications, such as opioids, that carry a risk of abuse.
Quest’s prescription drug monitoring services help the physician identify if a patient is taking or not taking up to about four dozen drugs, such as oxycodone, Adderall XR® and Percocet®. For the Quest analysis, we analyzed more than 3 million de-identified lab test results.
In this report, we found that 54 percent of patients’ results tested in 2015 showed evidence of drug misuse, slightly above the 53 percent misuse rate in 2014. That is certainly unacceptably high, but it’s a significant decline from the high of 63 percent we observed in 2011.
We also found that an increasing proportion of patients who misuse medications combine their prescription medication with non-prescribed drugs. Among patients with inconsistent test results, forty-five percent of these patients showed evidence of one or more other drug(s) in addition to their prescribed drug regimen. That’s much higher than our findings of 35 percent in 2014 and 2013, 33 percent in 2012, and 32 percent in 2011.
Finally, we were alarmed by the data showing the connection between heroin and benzodiazepines misuse. Our data showed one in three heroin users combine their drug use with benzodiazepines, the vast majority of which were unprescribed. This is an extremely dangerous practice given that benzodiazepines can have strong respiratory depressant effects when combined with other substances. Drug combinations, but particularly of heroin with benzodiazepines, can be potentially very dangerous, leading to coma and even death in some cases.