Pharmacy blood tests a popular option

Patients on blood-clot busting drug warfarin can avoid going to a GP for blood tests thanks to a successful pharmaceutical monitoring service in Blenheim.

Community Care Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in Blenheim to test warfarin patients' blood samples and prescribe a dosage of the drug.

It's success over the past six months in Blenheim means it will now be rolled out to pharmacies in Nelson and Richmond.

Warfarin is used in the protection against and maintenance of blood clots that can lead to conditions such as strokes.

Each dosage is specific to each patient - too low a dosage can let clots form and lead to a heart attack or stroke, while too high a dosage can cause serious bleeding.

Pharmacist and co-owner of Community Care Pharmacy Debbie Carter said based on international normalisation ratio software, she can measure how thick a patient's blood is and how long it takes to clot using a pin prick blood test. Within 10 minutes the software can prescribe the daily dosage of warfarin.

Patients are given a dosage calendar which is colour coded to set out the strength of dosage and when the next test should be conduced.

It is targeted at patients who are often very stable and only occasionally require minor dose adjustment. The service avoids lengthy waits at a GP for a blood test and results and is less invasive than a traditional syringe-draw blood test.

Ms Carter said traditionally patients would have gone to their GP for a morning blood test and waited all day for results on their dosage of warfarin.

The new service means a patient can get a blood test and prescribed dosage anytime between 10am and 5.30pm seven-days-a-week.

"People love it because it is quick and easy," she said. "A number of GP surgeries have come on board because it reduces pressures on waiting lists and saves time."

Thirty patients have used the service in Blenheim, with availability for a further 20.

The free service is funded by Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and patients are referred by their GP.

The board's chief pharmacist Graham Parton said it gave patients more choice and convenience.

"We appreciate GP practices provide great services and pharmacy monitoring is not for all patients," he said. "It's an example of national and local initiatives to expand choice for patients and getting services closer to home."

The Marlborough Express