Researchers Find Drugs In Donated Blood

Researchers using “pure” human blood serum from various medical suppliers that had been sourced from multiple donors found that all contained caffeine or other drugs when conducting their mass spectrometry research. Biomedical suppliers get their blood from blood banks, which pass along inventory that’s nearing its expiration date. The finding poses an interesting question on what exactly might be present in donated blood.

Oregon State University scientists purchased 18 batches of human blood serum for their study into how botanical dietary supplements and other drugs can interact together in the body. They used mass spectrometry to identify the chemical composition of the molecules in the blood samples. They discovered caffeine in all the samples, as well as traces of cough medicine and anti-anxiety drugs in many of them.

The team tested all of the samples for caffeine; alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medicine sold under the trade name Xanax; dextromethorphan, an over-the-counter cough suppressant; and tolbutamide, a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes. Alprazolam was present in 13 of the samples, while eight of the samples had traces of dextromethorphan. All of the pooled serum was free of tolbutamide.

Luying Chen, a Ph.D. student in the Linus Pauling Institute and the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Oregon State University, commented, “From a contamination standpoint, caffeine is not a big worry for patients, though it may be a commentary on current society. But the other drugs being in there could be an issue for patients, as well as posing a problem for those of us doing this type of research because it’s hard to get clean blood samples.”

The team behind the study ultimately had to enlist the help of two volunteers who promised to abstain from eating or drinking anything with caffeine before their blood was taken as a sample. The research has been published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis.