For several years I’ve been taking Zolpidem (generic for Ambien) on and off as a sleep aid. It’s cheap and effective and for most of us has little or no side effects. FDA studies show the incidence of dizziness and drowsiness (most common complaints) to be only 2% – 3% greater than that of a placebo… and that’s for us elderly folks! That is only 3 people out of every 100 who have “minor” side effects while using the drug. We’ve all heard those strange, but rare tales of people sleep walking or sleep driving, but how many of us personally know someone who has actually experienced this? Is there really a significant risk?
For $0.59 I get 30 pills which typically last me 3 months… surely shipping and handling must cost more than the drug. Needless to say, I was pretty irate when I received a $45 bill for drug testing from my doctor. When I inquired as to the reason behind this, I was told the doctor had to be protected for liability and needed to be assured I was taking the drug as prescribed. Following minimal research, I determined this shotgun approach to drug screening (presumptive code 80305) is not even effective for detecting Ambien. In fact, Ambien’s presence often gives false positives for Benzodiazepines. Further even if an effective test were utilized, Ambien is out of your system after 11 hours. So when prescribed “take as needed,” what are the odds of even detecting Ambien? What is the point of wasting resources to do this test?
OK, here are a few answers that may not be obvious. A few years back Medicare and Insurance companies quit reimbursing Clinics for drug screening, in cases where deemed “medically unnecessary.” Medical necessity should NOT apply to those who get annual wellness exams and do not exhibit signs of “drug abuse.” Subsequently, Clinics lost a lot of money from the Medicare windfall and got scratching for a new scheme. Some simply decided to just charge the patient for what had been lost, but how much? The government was so generous for so many years, but what is fair for the patient? One can buy a kit for a 12 panel test easily run in the office and it costs less than $5 per test. Wow, at $45 per test that’s an 800% return on investment. Not too bad in today’s financial market.
I realize our society has a drug problem and I support all reasonable means to address it. However, the foregoing is a shallow, meager and asinine approach to the real problem. I sincerely hope I’ve overlooked something on this subject and wish some medical professional would publicly respond to this subject. Thanks for the opportunity to ventilate.
J. C. Rogers