An online finger-prick hormone test used by menopausal women could provide unreliable results, experts have warned.
Finger-prick tests for a hormone called oestradiol are sold by online retailers for between £50 and £180, depending on what is included in the test.
They are often used by women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or going through IVF to track menopause or fertility levels and can impact decisions around the need for drugs or further tests.
But Eurofins, a large laboratory based in the UK, is still carrying out finger prick tests for oestradiol despite concerns the results might not always be accurate, an investigation has found.
Eurofins’ own internal study, launched in 2021, found finger-prick blood samples were more likely to record lower oestradiol levels than blood samples taken from a vein.
Finger-prick tests for a hormone called oestradiol are sold by online retailers for between £50 and £180 but experts have warned they could be unreliable
But it carried on processing the tests on behalf of online retailers after telling them about the discrepancy, according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Insiders from the company, who have since left, told The BMJ that in their view the results from the company’s internal studies showed the test was unreliable and that they should have stopped processing it.
One former employee said the fact Eurofins carried on processing these tests once potential problems had been identified showed ‘a lack of duty of care and regard for patients.’
Another added: ‘Some customers who use this are bodybuilders, people who are on hormone replacement therapies, or people who may be going through IVF. It’s not an urgent medical test but you would want the result to be as accurate as possible.
‘Every test has implications.’
Jessica Watson, a GP in Bristol who researches the use of tests, said: ‘There is a risk that results might be misinterpreted or be misleading—and that could have implications for women if they believe that they are more or less fertile, for example, even if that just steers their decision making a little bit.
‘And if that is causing confusion or increased anxiety, they will probably contact their GP for advice and that has a knock-on effect on NHS services which are massively overstretched.’
David Wells, chief executive of the Institute of Biomedical Science, is trying to raise awareness around the lack of regulation of online tests and laboratories.
‘The home testing and the home sampling arena lacks the levels of scrutiny and clinical oversight that a main laboratory serving a hospital accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and regulated by the Care Quality Commission would have,’ he said.
‘In essence these are sitting slightly outside of most regulations.’
The investigation reveals that Eurofins did get in touch with online retailer clients to tell them that results of the finger prick tests were lower compared with samples taken from a vein, but did not stop processing the tests.
Eurofins has been contacted for comment