Oldham based doctor, James Bluett, has developed a new blood test which could help local rheumatoid arthritis patients to better manage their illness by keeping to their medication regimes.

Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed drug for the 400,000 people in the UK suffering from this autoimmune disease. However, around 40% of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients do not take the drug as prescribed and, currently, clinical staff have no way of knowing whether a patient is taking their medication as advised.

Thirty eight year old, Dr Bluett practises at the borough’s Pennine MSK Partnership which provides care for patients in orthopaedics, rheumatology and chronic pain. He is also a researcher for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Biomedical Research Centre and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester.

The new test, developed, refined and assessed over 4 years, measures the methotrexate levels in a patient’s blood over the previous seven days. The final research results from 138 RA patients showed that the test has a 95% sensitivity in detecting whether someone took their methotrexate in the preceding week.

The initial evaluation of the blood test’s effectiveness was carried out in the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility with 20 patients from the North West.

“Patients may not take their methotrexate as prescribed for several reasons” said Dr Bluett, who splits his time equally between clinical practice and academic research at The University of Manchester. “Methotrexate is a weekly treatment, taken over a long period and can have side effects. Non-adherence means the drug won’t work as effectively and risks a patient’s condition worsening.

“Our new marker will enable doctors to start supportive conversations with patients about the difficulties they may be experiencing with the medication and how to resolve them.”


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