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Costing analysis of a point-of-care drug checking program in Rhode Island.

BACKGROUND: Drug checking is a harm reduction strategy that provides greater awareness and information about the drug supply to the community. While fentanyl test strips are low-cost and available in most parts of the U.S., community-based organizations are considering using more sophisticated technologies, such as Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy to test drugs. FTIR can detect multiple substances in a non-destructive manner that can be rapidly communicated to the program client by a trained technician, however implementation costs in community-based settings have not been assessed.

METHODS: We conducted a costing analysis of a new pilot drug checking service that employed an FTIR spectrometer, fentanyl test strips and confirmatory testing in Rhode Island from January 2023-May 2023. We used microcosting methods to determine the overall cost during this period and cost per drug checked, reflecting realistic service capacity.

RESULTS: Among 101 drug samples that were voluntarily submitted and tested, 53% tested positive for fentanyl, 39% for cocaine, 9% for methamphetamine and 13% for xylazine, a powerful sedative. The total cost during this period was $71,044 and the cost per drug checked was $474, though sensitivity analyses indicated that the cost would rise to $78,058 - $83,058 or $544 - $593 for programs needing to pay for specialized training.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate feasibility and inform the resources needed to scale-up drug checking services to reduce overdose risk.

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