Bioethics Blogs

Text Messaging: A Cure for Common Nonadherence?

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

According to research studies on medication usage, nearly 22% of all e-prescriptions and 28% of new prescriptions are not filled. For heart medications among people who have experienced a heart attach, one-half to two-thirds (depending on the medication) of patients were nonadherent to a prescription regimen. Patient adherence to medication is related to the disease, side effects, how long they are treated (there is a drop off after 6-months of treatment), complexity and the regimen, severity of disease, and cost of the medication.

Nonadherence can increase the cost of treating patients. Estimates on that cost vary but range from $100 to $290 billion each year and $7,800 per patient. Patients with chronic diseases who do not adhere to a prescribed medical regiment have higher death rates, more hospitalizations, more emergency department visits, and more physician visits.

A new study out of the U.K. found that one way to reduce nonadherence is through text messages. In a trial of 303 patients prescribed drugs to lower medication or lipid-levels, half were sent daily text messages either every day (or alternate days) for two weeks following by weekly texts for 22 additional weeks. In a self report, patients were asked about whether they took their medication, whether the text was an important reminder, and if they did not take their medication, whey they did not do so. Patient medication levels were measured after 6 months. In the control group, about 25% of patients were nonadherent (defined as taking less than 80% of medication) compared to 9% in the experimental group.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.