Written by Jennifer Darby
Fingerprint drug screening to be trialled in Anglo-Finnish opioid drug rehabilitation study thanks to €1 million Eurostars award An innovative Anglo-Finnish research study aimed at improving drug rehabilitation treatment for opioid dependent patients has begun, thanks to European funding worth almost €1 million. The two-year project, which will involve the trial of a rapid, non-invasive fingerprint drug screening technique, is part of a joint venture between UK-based Intelligent Fingerprinting Ltd, addiction medicine experts at the University of Eastern Finland and Addoz Oy, a Finnish healthcare technology company.The project has been made possible thanks to a grant of nearly €1 million from Eurostars, a programme that provides funding for key research and development initiatives within SMEs across Europe.
The collaboration brings together expertise in key areas related to drug rehabilitation and the project will focus on developing improved patient management tools to assist with the delivery of more cost-effective, convenient and safer opioid substitution treatment (OST) programmes for opioid drug dependent patients. Opioid substitution treatment involves the prescription of a regular dosage of opioid substitution medicine, usually buprenorphine or methadone, to patients with opioid dependence, such as heroin addiction. The oral medication is longer lasting and less euphoric than illegal intravenous opioid drugs and suppresses a patient’s craving for heroin.
The project’s clinical validation study will take place at the Addiction Psychiatry Unit at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, led by Dr Ulrich Tacke, Professor of Addiction Medicine. Prof Tacke explains the benefits and challenges relating to OST: “OST treatment is widely used and generally successful in improving the health of opioid dependent patients and in reducing crime and social issues associated with drug addiction. However, to be effective treatment must be closely monitored to ensure patients are taking their prescribed medication and avoiding illicit substances.”OST patients usually have to make frequent visits to their clinic or, in some countries, to a pharmacy to take their medication under observation. They must also provide regular urine samples for analysis to check adherence to the OST programme and avoidance of illicit drugs. A member of the treatment staff observes the collection of each urine sample to reduce the possibility of a patient adulterating or switching samples in order to alter their test result.
Prof Tacke continues: “Because of the need for regular testing and specially prepared sample collection facilities, OST is currently expensive as well as time-consuming to administer and monitor using urine drug screening methods.”
Dr Walker adds: “The inconvenient and undignified process of obtaining observed urine samples for drug screening is set to become a thing of the past. Our technology confirms a patient’s identity and reveals recent drug-use history simply by analysing the sweat from their fingertip, providing results in minutes.”
Intelligent Fingerprinting has invented a portable fingerprint drug screening device that can be used almost anywhere. A single fingerprint sweat sample is all that is needed to carry out a multiple drug screen in less than 10 minutes. The device is safe and easy to use with no requirement for the costly specialist collection facilities and biohazard precautions associated with conventional testing methods involving blood, urine and saliva samples.
Dr Walker continues: “Obtaining observed urine samples for drug screening – which is both time-consuming and undignified – is set to become a thing of the past. Our technology confirms a patient’s identity and reveals recent drug-use history simply by analysing the sweat from their fingertip, providing results in minutes.”
Finnish healthcare technology company, Addoz, has a strong track record in providing innovative medical devices, such as the Med-O-Wheel SecureTM, which helps patients with their everyday medication dispensing needs. Their part in the project is to provide safe and cost-effective devices for use in OST. Juha Heinämäki, Managing Director of Addoz, explains: “Our technology is particularly important for patients on long-term medication such as OST with buprenorphine, including take-home allowances, as it limits the risk of overdose and diversion. It also enables treatment staff to devote their time to other aspects of patient care and rehabilitation. The impact of our technology could be far reaching in terms of the potential cost savings to society as a result of more efficiently managed, more effective treatment programmes.”The Eurostars Programme received more than 500 applications from across its member countries for this round of funding. Out of all the applications, the Anglo-Finnish Fingerprint Recording in OST Project was ranked 1st in Finland, 3rd in the UK and 19th across the whole of the EU.