Pennsylvania hospitals may soon test for fentanyl



(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania hospitals may soon test urine samples for fentanyl and xylazine, two of the most common additives found in heroin.

The state government legalized fentanyl test strips for personal use last year, following a number of other states responding to more overdose deaths in the last decade. More than 5,200 Pennsylvanians have died from an overdose death in the last year, according to CDC data.

Senate Bill 683, introduced by Sens. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, and Michele Brooks, R-Greenville, would require hospitals to test urine for fentanyl and xylazine when they conduct a drug screening to diagnose a patient. Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, has been increasingly involved in overdoses in Pennsylvania, as The Center Square previously reported.

“Testing for fentanyl can play a key role in saving someone’s life. It can alert a provider that a patient has fentanyl in their system, warn a patient they have ingested fentanyl, or connect people to treatment or a prescription for naloxone,” Mastriano and Brooks wrote in a legislative memo.

Standard drug screenings do not test for fentanyl and many patients don’t know a drug contains fentanyl. A 2022 study found that, in a review of more than 315,000 emergency department overdose visits, only 5% of patients were testing for fentanyl. Of those tested, 40% came back positive for fentanyl.

“There are three low-cost reagents currently approved by the FDA that can be used with a chemical analyzer to determine if an individual has fentanyl in their system,” Mastriano and Brooks wrote.

The bill passed in a unanimous vote in the Senate and awaits action in the House Health Committee. If it becomes law, Pennsylvania would follow the lead of California, whose hospital fentanyl testing law took effect in 2023. Though the first state to pass the requirement, the law will expire in five years. Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 683, in contrast, has no such expiration.

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