Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency is an under-diagnosed disease and screening programs have therefore been recommended for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We present the results of the pilot phase of a screening program for AAT deficiency in order to evaluate the technique used, the procedures for transporting samples and the results obtained. Over a period of one month, five centers collected samples from all COPD patients for whom plasma concentrations of AAT or Pi phenotype had not yet been determined. Capillary blood spots were dried on filter paper and then sent by surface mail to a central laboratory for study. An immunonephelometric assay was used to determine AAT and DNA phenotyping was done by use of a Light Cycler. Samples were analyzed from 86 COPD patients (76 men, 10 women) with a mean age of 68.2 years. AAT deficiency was ruled out for 74 patients (86%) who had concentrations above the cutoff established, although one of them was MZ heterozygote by genotype. Among the 12 remaining patients (13.9%), only two also had a Z allele. The rest were individuals with concentrations below the established threshold and no evidence of a Z allele (10 patients, 11.6%). The Z allele frequency observed (3/172; 1.74%) was very similar to that found in the general population. The results of this pilot study allowed us to confirm that the method used to collect samples worked well. The sampling method is applicable, easy and well-accepted by participating physicians. It allowed AAT concentrations and Z allele deficiency to be determined. The method correlates well with standard techniques used for samples in whole blood.