Zion Laboratory develops breakthrough Polypharmacy Test

Doctors and pharmacists see it all the time – patients, most of them elderly, taking 5, 10, sometimes 15 or more medications. It’s a pill burden known as polypharmacy, which is variously defined as taking high numbers of medications, using more drugs than clinically indicated, or using inappropriate medications.

The impact of polypharmacy on chronic disease patients and our elderly population is significant. It can lead to poor prescription adherence, adverse drug interactions, and medication errors which can lead to falls, hip fractures, confusion, delirium, and more. Polypharmacy also accounts for a significant percentage of potentially preventable emergency room visits and additional hospitalizations.

Doctors, meanwhile, have expressed frustration as they struggle to keep up with their patients’ frequent prescription changes.

“Doctors and surgeons will ask their patients what medications they’re taking and they may remember some, but they forget others,” said Victor Castillo, Executive Director of Zion Laboratory in Pharr. “They may bring in a brown bag filled with a bunch of pills and they still may be missing some. So there’s really no way for the primary care physician to know what the cardiologist, what the endocrinologist, what the different specialists are prescribing to their patient.”

Dr. Cecil Bennett of Atlanta felt there had to be a better way that providers and insurers could capture and evaluate objective data on medication use by patients on a daily basis. Last year, Bennett turned to Zion Laboratory Services of Pharr to develop his design for a urine test that would finally and objectively measure medication adherence that is non-invasive and cost effective. It’s called the Bennett Polypharmacy Profile (BPP).

“We worked hard, really hard, hired scientists, bought the latest research and laboratory instrumentation” said Castillo as he emphasized that “today we’re the only laboratory in the country that is offering what I call a medication compliance monitoring tool.”

Zion Laboratory developed three Bennett Polypharmacy Panels: Chronic Disease, Behavioral Health and a Comprehensive Profile which can detect a total of 121 prescription medications, over the counter medicines, and herbal supplements. The BPP covers medications in the following drug classes:

  • Hypertension
  • Blood Thiners
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Over-The-Counter Products
  • Herbal supplements
  • Migraine
  • Psychiatric
  • Depression
  • ADD & ADHD
  • Chronic Pain
  • Memory
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Sleep
  • Anxiolytic
  • Others

The Chronic Disease panel tests for the major blood thinners, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, Congestive Heart Failure, Migraine and over-the-counter products. Zion Lab also developed a Behavioral Health panel for persons who are taking drugs such as for ADD/ADHD, Anxiolytic, Depression, Memory, illicit and memory related medications.

“Just looking at the medication list you can see how a primary doctor, an internist, a surgeon or a cardiologist would be really interested in running this test for their patients,” said Castillo. “With the BPP, you know what the patient is on or not on. What they should be on, but they’re not. That’s an important step that doctors should do with their patients. By getting a comprehensive, objective look at all the medications a patient is taking, you can identify things like overlapping medications and then remove one and keep the other. That’s medication reconciliation.”

Zion Laboratory is CLIA certified and accredited by COLA to ensure high complexity standards are in compliance. Zion utilizes Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LCMS) technology – enabling higher levels of precision and reliability in laboratory diagnostics, this is the gold standard ensuring the highest degree of accuracy in quantitative results versus traditional technologies. The BPP has a proven sensitivity and specificity greater than 95%. Zion Laboratory started running samples in November 2017 and now services many states across the United States. Zion is the only lab that has the BPP.

“We’ve proved that in South Texas we have qualified personnel and have the capability to develop and run this unique test which is only available at Zion Lab,” said Castillo. “We’ve partnered with a major shipping company to provide logistics and overnight service, and quick turn-around-time servicing pretty much any part of the country where Medicare and Medicaid is available.”

Castillo believes the BPP can help make a difference in reducing morbidity and fatality in polypharmacy patients. BPP is a breakthrough tool that gives doctors an objective measurement of what’s really going into their patients’ systems, thereby eliminating confusion.

To learn more about how BPP can help you better serve your patients, visit: or call (956) 783-2585.