UAlberta-developed SMHeartCard boosts heart attack patients' chances of survival

Pocket-sized holder gives patients easy access life-saving medication.

ROSS NEITZ - 15 May 2019

Each year, more than 60,000 Canadians will suffer their first heart attack. Approximately one third of them will never make it to hospital. It is a shocking statistic that U of A physician John Mackey is trying to change for the better.

"Very few people at risk of heart attack carry the two medicines they need to urgently take in the event of a heart attack," said John Mackey, an oncology professor in the U of A's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

"A recent study from Alberta showed that not one heart attack patient carried acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) around with them, and only 11 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women had their nitroglycerin on them. And do you know why not? Lack of convenience."

Mackey along with U of A colleagues James Stewart, Ian Paterson and Neal Davies have designed and tested the SMHeartCard, a credit-card-sized pill case containing the two potentially life-saving medications for people suffering a heart attack. SMHeartCard was designed to give early treatment and improve the chances of surviving a heart attack.

According to Mackey, the time from the onset of chest pain to getting ASA and nitroglycerin is a major predictor of heart attack survival.

"Every minute that goes by in an untreated heart attack is dangerous," said Mackey. "ASA immediately starts to break up blood clots, and nitroglycerin opens up blood vessels and reduces the workload of the heart. Early treatment allows for a much smaller heart attack, reduces the heart damage that might otherwise occur and, ultimately, improves chances of survival."

The SMHeartCard is available online, and is now stocked in several pharmacies in Alberta and British Columbia, with plans to expand the product to stores across Canada. Mackey says it's an example of a made-in-Alberta idea being put to practice for the public good.

Learn more about the SMHeartCard at the Festival of Health on May 25. Mackey will discuss his work on the project during the Rapid Fire Presentations from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Festival of Health

Register here for your free ticket

Edmonton Clinic Health Academy 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

North Campus, University of Alberta

Booths and Children's Activities Area

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Learning Session and Tours Block 1

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Barbecue and Entertainment

11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Rapid Fire Presentations and Ask The Experts: Q & A Session

1 - 2:30 p.m.

Learning Sessions and Tours Block 2

3 - 4 p.m.

More information available at