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Text alerts help people take medications: Study

London: Regular text alerts to remind patients to take their medicines could prevent the deaths of thousands of people from heart attack or stroke and save the NHS millions of pounds each year, according to British researchers.

Presently, 500 million pounds is wasted each year because patients do not continue their prescribed medication. However a new study by Queen Mary University of London demonstrated that sending a text message reminder improved the uptake of pills by 64 percent. Moreover, 1 in 6 was helped to continue their treatment, reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke.

Prof David Wald, study leader, said text reminders could be used by hospital doctors, pharmacists and GPs for a range of different conditions, including HIV, TB and diabetes.

In the study, which has been published in Plos ONE, 300 patients who were already on blood pressure medicines or statins were either sent daily texts for 2 weeks followed by a fortnight of alternate days, then weekly texts for 6 months, or no texts at all.

The participants had to reply to say whether the message had reminded them to take it if they had forgotten, whether they had taken their medication, or whether they had simply not taken it.

Anybody who had not taken their medicine was flagged up by a computer and received a telephone call to offer advice. Of those who did not receive texts, 25 percent stopped taking their medicine completely, or took less than 80 percent of it.

In the text group, that figure was 9-14 percent out of 150 patients. There were only 3 patients who did not take the medicine again after receiving advice.

According to Wald, there was a range of reasons why people stopped taking their medicine, including concerns over potential side-effects and uncertainty over the need for treatment.