New DOT Panel to come into Affect January 2018

Nov 10, 2017

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Transportation (DOT) have extended the federal urine drug testing programme panel requirements to include the Schedule II opioid drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone. This panel is often to referred to as the ‘Extended Opiates’ testing.

Inclusion of these four semi-synthetic opioids comes in response to the national opioid epidemic, with HHS acting in response to drug abuse trends and their review of information on new drugs of abuse from Federal regulators, researchers, the drug testing industry and public and private sector employees.

“Inclusion of these four semi-synthetic opioids is intended to help address the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse. Also, adding these four drugs, which are already test for in many transportation employer’s non-DOT testing programs because of their widespread use and potentially impairing effect, will allow the DOT to detect a broader range of drugs being used illegally. Transportation industries are not immune to this trend and the safety issues it raises.”

-DOT announcement, Nov. 9th

This means that all DOT testing done, including the testing taking place in Canada, that falls under the jurisdiction of this regulatory body will be required to include this panel. It is very important for all collectors, third party administrators, designated employer representatives and programme administrators working in the DOT space to be aware of this change and how it affects testing.

“Since we already have opiates in the DOT-regulated drug testing panels, adding semi-synthetic opioids to the panel is not radical change for these highly trained medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy.”

-DOT announcement, Nov. 9th

DOT CCF forms may have to be updated with new lab codes which will have to be obtained from the laboratory, and this change may affect lab pricing as it is adding another extended panel, and costs will need to be reevaluated and pricing agreements remade.

The new DOT panel also brings some minor changes to the analogue amphetamines target analytes, adding MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine) as an initial test analyte and removing MDEA (methylenedioxyethylamphetamine) as a confirmatory test analyte. This means they are modifying which chemicals are being identified within the specimen to determine whether that specific drug is present.

“This final rule clarifies certain existing drug-testing program provisions and definitions, makes technical amendments and removes the requirement for employers and consortium/third-party administrators to submit blind specimens.”

-DOT announcement, Nov. 9th

The blind specimen requirement has been a part of the DOT testing policy since the inception of the program, but over time the laboratory process has become well established with protocols and procedures consistent and highly accurate. Not even one false positive result was found in the last 25 years of employing the blind testing requirements, leading the HHS to feel that there is no need for this requirement any longer due to the accuracy and integrity of the system as well as the safeguard of the split specimen being used, allowing an employee to request the test be split should they have any concerns regarding the integrity of the testing.

Presently the DOT only allows urine testing, not hair or oral fluid, however the HHS has put in a rulemaking that would authorize the use of oral fluid testing and hair testing under their Mandatory Guidelines. Should the HHS authorize this change, it would lead the DOT to follow in the footsteps of the HHS revision with their own rulemaking to conform the Part 40. Given the DOT’s mandate to remain consistent with the HHS Mandatory Guidelines, should these changes take place with HHS, the DOT would follow suit.