The right medication can work wonders, but only if it is taken as intended. According to a study, patients are likelier to stick to their prescribed dosage schedule when they receive reminders through text messages.
High levels of cholesterol and blood pressure contribute widely to strokes and heart attacks, so they must be managed, commonly achieved by prescribing medication. Unfortunately, a third of people on prescriptions don't properly take their medication, reducing the benefits of prescription medication while incurring costs -- no thanks to wasted medicine.
While some people are just stubborn, many others simply forget to take their medication or are not sure what their prescription can actually do and thus don't take them for fear of uncertainty. Will text message reminders help them stick to their prescriptions? This is what the INTERACT study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, aimed to find out.
There were 303 patients involved in the study, each one prescribed either cholesterol-lowering medication, blood pressure medication, or both. They were randomly divided into two: the "text message" and "no text" groups.
The "text message" group received texts weekly for six months, every other day for two weeks and every day for two weeks. The text messages asked if they had already taken their prescribed medication for the day. Those who did not respond were called and then offered help.
As for the "no text" group, 25 percent of subjects stopped taking their medications entirely or ended up taking no more than four-fifths of total intended doses. Some people in the "text message" group also didn't take their medication, but they only numbered nine percent of the total number of patients in the group.
"An important and overlooked problem in medicine is the failure to take prescribed medication. The results of this trial show that text message reminders help prevent this in a simple and effective way. More than just a reminder, the texts provided the link to identify patients who needed help," said Professor David Wald, a consultant cardiologist from the Queen Mary University of London and the study's lead author.
David Taylor from University College London added that the implications of the study has both health and economic perspectives. With most people owning a mobile phone, it is now possible to prevent thousands of stroke and heart attacks with a simple text containing all relevant information about a prescription.
Other authors of the study include Jonathan Bestwick, Nicholas Wald, Lewis Raiman and Rebecca Brendell.