Dr Sangeeta Tanna and Dr Graham Lawson from De Montfort University (DMU) Leicester have developed the test which can identify and measure the amount of drugs present in the blood from a 5mm diameter spot collected on a piece of card.
Working with Professor Kamlesh Khunti and Professor Melanie Davies from the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) and the University of Leicester, Dr Tanna and Dr Lawson are to trial this simple, non-invasive test to monitor patients’ adherence to three types of drugs used to treat cardiovascular problems – beta blockers and ACE inhibitors, which are used for high blood pressure, and statins, which lower cholesterol levels.
Evidence suggests that as many as 40% of patients ignore or do not adhere to their medication which can result in high rates of complications, hospital re-admissions or even death. The blood spot test will highlight these issues and help alleviate the problem.
This could help the NHS save millions in unused pills and hospital re-admissions. In 2007 there were around 251 million prescriptions for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases in England. If 40% are not used this equates to £800 million in unused medication.
Project leader, Dr Tanna, said: “A drop of patient’s blood, from a simple finger prick, will be collected on a card. The sample can be collected in a clinic, a pharmacy or even at home as there is no need for any specialist training. Once the sample is dry, the card can then be posted to a laboratory for analysis.
“The results will indicate the types and levels of drugs in the patient’s blood and will help doctors make an informed clinical decision concerning the levels of prescribed medication.
“We are grateful to DMU’s Gunn and Carter Fellowship for funding this work.”
Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart or circulatory disease, covers disorders of the heart and blood vessels, namely hypertension (high blood pressure), angina, heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
It is one of the biggest killers in the UK and in 2009 accounted for one in three of all deaths. There are currently around 2.6 million people in the UK living with the disease.
Professor Khunti said: “If the dried blood spot trials prove successful then this test would lead to a method for ensuring these medications are used correctly with the potential to improve care of patients at high risk or with cardiovascular diseases.”
This test is an extension of an approach that has already been used to monitor the drug intake of sick newborn babies less than four weeks of age.
As babies only have a small amount of blood (80ml in a 1kg child), being able to monitor medication from a single spot of blood is hugely beneficial. Current practice for prescribing medication to children is derived from trials carried out on adult volunteers, so overdosing or underdosing a child is still a possibility.