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Delaware to pilot first combined fentanyl-xylazine test strip program

 A SIVAD xylazine-fentanyl test strip.
SIVAD Diagnostic Medical Group, LLC
The new fentanyl and xylazine test strip, known as HarmGuard FX, was developed by SIVAD Diagnostic Medical Group, LLC, headquartered in Bear, Delaware.

Delaware’s Behavioral Health consortium will help pilot the country’s first combined xylazine and fentanyl test strips — a harm reduction tool developed by Delaware-based medical supply company.

With Delaware’s overdose crisis showing no signs of slowing, state public health officials tout fentanyl test strips as an opportunity to help drug users take precautions.

But some users receiving test strips say they have little use for them – fentanyl is now the most common opioid on the market.

"I know what I'm using has [fentanyl] in it," said a woman named KC who visited a mobile syringe exchange in Dover in April. "I don't need to test it — if it didn't have [fentanyl], I think I could feel it."

Xylazine, however, is relatively new, and many users say they do not want to develop a dependency on an entirely new substance, which leaves users with open sores prone to infection.

Harm reduction workers already distribute stand-alone xylazine test strips in every Delaware county, and given the continued demand for fentanyl test strips from state agencies like the Department of Public Health, some harm reduction researchers saw an opportunity to consolidate.

“It isn’t likely that someone in active addiction who is about to use a substance would test a drug twice,” said Jermonica Boardley, the President of SIVAD Diagnostic Group, LLC, the Bear-based company that developed the new combined xylazine-fentanyl test strip. "So we determined that is could be useful to have something that can test for both with only one strip.”

Boardley noted that her company took interest in producing harm reduction supplies because of the funding available through Delaware's opioid settlement funds; devising a combined strip enabled newcomer SIVAD to stake out a claim to a portion of that funding.

Lt. Governor Bethany Hall Long, who promoted the new pilot this week, says the effort could be a more efficient and cost-effective approach to providing test strips.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes it much easier, cost effective and efficient," she said. "And we’re proud that Delaware will be the first in the country to pilot the one strip.”

Boardley notes that while the combined test strips are more expensive than the separate xylazine or fentanyl test strips, buying the combined strips in large quantities — rather than purchasing separate bulk orders of fentanyl and xylazine test strips — does indeed save the state money.

Hall Long also stands by the value of fentanyl test strips, arguing that some users remain wary of fentanyl and deserve the option to know what they are using.

"There are still people who will want to make sure they aren't taking something with fentanyl in it — we need to have everything available to fight overdoses, and test strips are part of that," she said.

Both Brandywine and Gibney Mobile Health will be responsible for distributing the strips to users through drop-in centers and mobile harm reduction vans.

Meanwhile, Boardley says SIVAD hopes to branch out further into the harm reduction supplies market, possibly with the goal of proactively identifying emerging drug trends and the supplies appropriate to address them.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.