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Physicians are confident in counseling, but consider drug testing critical to prevent misuse

When clinicians prescribe controlled substances for the management of conditions such as severe chronic pain, they need to ensure that patients use them appropriately and not mix them with unprescribed or illicit drugs that could do them harm.

To better understand physician attitudes and practices, Quest Diagnostics joined with Partnership to End Addiction to commission a Harris Survey poll of 500 physicians to learn more about the barriers they face in their ability to monitor and intervene with their patients at risk for drug misuse. The survey was part of the 2021 Quest Health TrendsTM Report, the latest in a series of reports designed to bring objective data to the understanding of the nation’s healthcare challenges.

The survey showed that 88% of physicians felt confident or very confident that they could identify patients at risk for drug use and misuse, and 96% said they talk with their patients about the risks of prescription drug misuse.

“A good deal of physician confidence comes from their use of clinical drug testing to monitor patients, with 85% reporting that such testing gives them confidence that they are prescribing safely,” the authors wrote. “Yet, of physicians who have prescribed controlled medications in the last 6 months, 77% say they don’t always use drug monitoring tests.”

Testing can reveal misuse that physicians, no matter their level of confidence, may miss. In Quest’s review of more than 475,000 deidentified test results, nearly half of all patients tested (48%) showed signs of misuse, either absence of a prescribed drug, or presence of a non-prescribed or illicit drug. Of these, 50% of test results indicated drug combining, a potentially dangerous form of drug misuse.

The report was authored by Jay G. Wohlgemuth, MD, senior vice president, R&D and Medical, and chief medical officer for Quest Diagnostics; Harvey W. Kaufman, MD, senior medical director and director, Health TrendsTM Research Program for Quest Diagnostics; and Creighton Drury, chief executive officer, Partnership to End Addiction.

Published date: May 3, 2022

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