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Study of Patients on Chronic Opioid Therapy finds Likely Non-adherent Patients Have Increased Healthcare Costs, More Hospital Days

BALTIMORE, March 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Patients undergoing opioid therapy for chronic pain who may not be following their prescription regimen have significantly higher overall healthcare costs, Ameritox Ltd. announced recently. The study was published in The American Journal of Managed Care.

"Considering all of the discussion right now around healthcare reform and controlling healthcare spending, this study highlights an opportunity to better manage a costly and at-risk population of patients – those on chronic opioid therapy," said Harry L. Leider, MD, co-author of the study.  Dr. Leider is Chief Medical Officer at Ameritox – a corporate sponsor of the research –and a faculty member with the American College of Physician Executives. "By focusing on patients who receive opioids and are likely non-adherent, clinicians can take concrete steps to improve patient safety and, ultimately, lower costs."  

The study analyzed managed care claims of more than 18 million patients, identifying a subset of pain patients on chronic opioid therapy. The study determined that patients on chronic opioid therapy who were likely non-adherent, as determined by urine drug testing results, had 14 percent higher healthcare costs and 35 percent more hospital days.

Likely non-adherence to prescribed opioid therapy was identified through urine drug monitoring results and included patients with results of a prescribed medication not found, the presence of a non-prescribed drug, the presence of an illicit drug found in the urine, or based on the expected amount of a prescribed drug found.

The study concluded that improving adherence among patients with chronic pain could help reduce healthcare spending and improve health outcomes. "Opioids are an important tool in pain management," added Leider. "This study reinforces a growing belief that pain medication monitoring must be part of the pain management paradigm.  Urine drug monitoring can provide clinicians with information to help improve medication adherence and outcomes among their patients, while controlling overall costs."

Among the Key Findings in the Study:

  • Overall healthcare spending for patients on chronic opioid therapy was over $23,000 per year (2008 dollars)
  • Total healthcare costs were 14 percent higher for likely non-adherent patients ($26,433) over a 12 month period following initial urine drug testing.
  • Likely non-adherent patients had 35 percent more hospital days.

  • About the Study: Data for the study were obtained from a managed care claims database of 18 million people enrolled between July 1, 2005 and Sept. 30, 2008. The data include geographically diverse commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid health plan members in the United States. Data for classification were obtained from an independent database of urine drug testing results. Patients with evidence of long-term prescription opioid use (defined as at least 120 days over any consecutive six month period) were selected for the study. More than 2,100 patients were classified based on urine drug testing results. The study was funded by Ameritox.

    For the full text or a PDF of this study, please go to:

    About Ameritox: Ameritox is the nation's leader in pain medication monitoring solutions, offering specialized laboratory testing and reporting services. Ameritox's expertise and innovative science provides physicians with insights and support to enhance and optimize the care of chronic pain patients. Ameritox offers Rx Guardian(SM), the most thorough and personalized lab service available and the only pain medication testing program with a proprietary methodology to help physicians assess whether patients are taking their pain medication as directed. Medication monitoring helps physicians make more informed clinical decisions and manage the risks and complexities associated with prescribing pain medications. Ameritox is headquartered in Baltimore, MD with laboratory facilities in Midland, TX and Greensboro, NC.

    To learn more about urine drug monitoring solutions, visit

    © 2011, Ameritox, Ltd. All rights reserved. AMERITOX, the AMERITOX logos, PAIN MEDICATION MONITORING SOLUTIONS, AMERITOX MEDICATION MONITORING SOLUTIONS, Rx GUARDIAN AUTOREMINDER, Rx GUARDIAN and PROTECT YOUR PATIENTS, PROTECT YOUR PRACTICE, are trademarks of Ameritox. All other trademarks are the claimed trademarks of others.For more information, contact: Michele Hart-Henry

    SOURCE Ameritox Ltd.
    Copyright©2010 PR Newswire.
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