Jan. 1, 2011

Drug-testing company settles kickback case. Ameritox, based in Midland, TX, will pay $16.3 million to settle a lawsuit charging the company paid kickbacks to doctors to win their Medicare business, the St. Petersburg (FL) Times reported Nov. 14. The whistleblower, a former Ameritox sales representative, will be awarded $3.4 million. The federal False Claims Act permits private citizens who know about fraud against the government to bring lawsuits on behalf of the public and share in any money recovered. Ameritox offers drug-testing services to doctors who prescribe powerful narcotics to their patients, many of whom are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

Employee drug testing expands to prescriptions. An increase in prescription painkillers is prompting more states to conduct employee drug testing. Currently, 15 states have laws that allow employers to test and terminate workers based on drug-test results. Some states are expanding testing to go beyond cocaine, marijuana, and natural opiates — codeine and morphine — and into synthetic opiates such as OxyContin and Vicodin. According to Quest Diagnostics' 2009 annual Drug Testing Index, results from more than 5.5 million urine drug tests reveal an 18% jump in opiate-positives in the general U.S. workforce in a single year (2008 to 2009), and a more than 40% climb from 2005 to 2009.

Lab tests for synthetic cannabinoids. An increasing number of patients are entering the hospital with adverse affects to “fake weed,” which has gained popularity among youth because the substance is legal and reportedly provides users with a marijuana-like high. Doctors report that these synthetic cannabinoids — often sold as incense or potpourri — cause hallucinations, vomiting, agitation, and other dangerous effects. According to Redwood Toxicology Laboratory (RTL), JWH-018 and JWH-073 are the primary synthetic cannabinoid-receptor agonists responsible for the euphoric and psychoactive effects that imitate marijuana and are among the numerous compounds found in these “herbal” blends. The manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids constantly change the psychoactive ingredient(s) to get around existing laws. RTL publishes an updated, comprehensive list containing key information on the composition and concentration of these products at

Woman claims poppy seeds caused failed drug test. A woman says that poppy seeds on a bagel consumed several hours before she gave birth caused a false-positive on a drug test conducted by Jameson Hospital in New Castle, PA, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The test result prompted Lawrence County authorities to remove the newborn from her parents' home after the mother and baby were discharged from the hospital, and to put the baby in protective custody for five days. The woman plans to file a lawsuit against the hospital.

U.S. has higher rate of MRSA than U.K. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows about 29 people out of 100,000 in the U.S. are infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) annually compared with 11 people out of 100,000 in the U.K. It is estimated that, in 2005, MRSA caused severe infections in nearly 95,000 Americans, killing more than 18,500. Infected Americans were twice as likely as Britons to have been on dialysis, and Americans more commonly had diabetes or had a central intravenous line inserted by a health provider. Over the past decade, U.S. hospitals have introduced several measures aimed at preventing the spread of infectious disease, such as requiring staff to wash their hands with soap before inserting a catheter into a patient. A CDC report earlier this year showed hospital MRSA infections have dropped in the U.S. since 2005.

Drug-resistant “superbug” spreads. A survey by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control describes 77 illness cases in Europe from 2008 to 2010 involving bacteria with the resistance factor known as New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1 (NDM-1), according to a Nov. 18 Eurosurveillance report. NDM-1 renders Gram-negative bacteria resistant to nearly all antibiotics. The report says 13 of 29 countries included in the survey reported NDM-1 cases, 54% of which involved Klebsiella pneumoniae. For 55 patients with a known travel history, 31 had traveled to or been hospitalized in India or Pakistan, and five had been hospitalized in the Balkan region. Possible nosocomial transmission was identified in 13 of the 77 cases. NDM-1 cases also have been found Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the United States.


Clinic says HIV-positive actor did not spread virus. Officials at the San Fernando Valley, CA, Adult Industry Medical (AIM) Healthcare Foundation clinic, where a porn performer tested HIV-positive Oct. 9, say that two rounds of tests show that no other adult film actors or their personal contacts have contracted the virus from the actor referred to as “Patient Zeta.” According to AIM, “there was no transmission of the HIV virus from Patient Zeta to anyone else.” The clinic, which caters to porn actors, says it conducted two types of tests on all those who had sexual contact with Patient Zeta, and the person who infected Zeta is aware of his/her HIV-positive status. Los Angeles County's public-health director says the health department cannot confirm AIM's test results because AIM has not provided the county public-health office with the test results or protocols, according to a Nov. 5 Associated Press article.

Drug combo blocks HIV infection. A combination antiretroviral drug taken prophylactically has been shown to reduce the risk of gay and bisexual men contracting HIV by 44% in a study carried out among nearly 2,500 men from Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, and the U.S. Researchers say the drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine, packaged as a once-daily pill, could be a cost-effective a prevention method, despite its $8,700 annual cost.