U.S. DHHS & DOT Publish Notice to Expand Federal Drug Testing Panel

Summary of Notice by WorkforceQA
January 20, 2017

On Monday January 23, 2017, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Transportation (DOT) will publish documents to expand federal urine drug testing programs’ panel to include Schedule II Opioid drugs, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, sometimes collectively referred to as “Expanded Opiates” testing. The DHHS document is a revision to the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Urine Drug Testing Programs (MG) and is effective October 1, 2017. The DOT document is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 49 CFR Part 40 to conform to the revisions to the MG and will have a public comment period of 60 days. After the comment period ends, and review of submitted comments, the DOT intends to publish a final rule no later than October 1, 2017 that will expand the drug testing panel for all DOT-mandated drug testing programs.

Summary of DHHS Mandatory Guidelines Revision: Federal executive branch agencies will be permitted to test for additional Schedule II drugs (i.e., oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone) in federal drug free workplace programs. Minor changes to the analogue amphetamines (MDEA and MDA) target analytes on initial and confirmatory testing are also included. In specimen validity testing the revised MG will increase the lower pH cutoff from 3 to 4 for identifying specimens as adulterated. Also, significantly, the revised MG will allow federal agencies to authorize collection of an oral fluid specimen when a federal employee donor in their program is unable to provide a sufficient amount of urine specimen at the collection site. These revisions are effective October 1, 2017.


Summary of DOT NRPM: The DOT is proposing to amend its drug testing program regulation to add four opioids (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone) to its drug testing panel; add MDA as an initial test analyte; and remove MDEA as a confirmatory test analyte. The proposed revision of the drug-testing panel is intended to harmonize with the revised Mandatory Guidelines established by the U.S. DHHS for federal drug testing programs for urine testing. This proposal also proposes to remove the requirement for employers and third party administrators (TPAs) to submit blind specimens. The period for public comment to the DOT’s proposed rule is 60 days.

Summary of Preliminary Questions & Answers for DOT Employers

1. When will the DOT start requiring “expanded opiates” testing?
The DOT NPRM states that October 1, 2017 is the implementation date set by the DHHS revisions to the DHHS Mandatory Guidelines which govern all federal drug testing programs. While we do not know the exact timing, typically the DOT would implement the changes to its regulation to coincide with the DHHS effective date (10/1/17).

2. Can I go ahead and start testing our DOT employees for these expanded opiates now?
No. It is important to note that DOT testing must continue to be done in accordance with DOT requirements.

3. Do I need to change our (Employer) DOT policy and procedures now?
Not at this time. There is still a lot to be done by DOT before the proposed changes are implemented. The DOT will seek public comments on its proposed regulation changes, evaluate those comments, and then publish a final regulation change with an effective date of 10/1/17 or later.

4. How can I continue to track progress on this Proposed Rule?
WorkforceQA will continue to monitor progress and notify our clients as substantive updates, milestones, or progress has been made or available. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us at compliance@wfqa.com.

5. Will WorkforceQA be submitting a comments to the DOT NPRM? Do we (Employer) need to provide any comments?
Once WorkforceQA finishes a detailed review, we will submit comments to the rulemaking docket within the 60 Day period. We would certainly welcome and take into account feedback (support and/or concerns) from our Clients. You can provide your thoughts to us at compliance@wfqa.com.