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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A study released this morning finds a high percentage of people prescribed pain medication don't show the medication in urine samples, a possible indication that the drugs are being diverted for illicit use.

Alabama had the 10th highest percentage -- 41 percent of patients -- not showing the drug in their systems.

"Though some patients may not take their medications for fear of addiction or unwanted side effects, when a prescription drug is not found in a sample it could mean that, either intentionally or unintentionally, the medication is being diverted to someone else," the study stated.

The study was based on tests of 527,000 individuals from all 50 states by Ameritox, a leading pain medication monitoring company Ameritox results are based on collections obtained during the course of their business through contracts with doctors, hospitals and other organizations.

Nationally, 35.9 percent of the patients didn't show the prescribed opioid, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Opana. This was an increase from the 31 percent found in a 2010 study.

Kathryn Bronstein, vice president of medical affairs at Ameritox, said in a prepared statement that the data points to importance of medication monitoring.

"There is no doubt that pain medication is critical to the care millions of individuals receive across the country," Bronstein said. "For many people living with chronic pain, these medicines are the only option for relief of their symptoms. But they must be used correctly to be used safely."

The 10 states with the highest percentage of patients with prescribed drugs not detected are: District of Columbia (47.8 percent), Michigan (45.8 percent), Georgia (45.8 percent), South Carolina (45.7 percent), Missouri (44.1 percent), Arkansas (43.7 percent), North Carolina (43.6 percent), Delaware (43.4 percent), Illinois (42.7 percent), and Alabama (41.4 percent).

The top three states with the lowest percentages are: Minnesota (3 percent), Vermont (14.9 percent) and Maine (16.5 percent).

The complete findings from states with more than 1,000 tests are available at ameritox.com/nationalreport.

Published: June 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM
Updated: June 20, 2013 at 11:59 AM

By Mike Oliver | moliver@al.com The Birmingham News

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