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01-11-2009 | Respiratory | Article

SMS messages improve medication adherence in asthma patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: A daily cell phone short message service (SMS) reminder significantly improves medication adherence in patients with asthma, research shows.

“Studies have found adherence rates to asthma treatment as low as 50%, which leads to poor asthma control characterized by daily symptoms of breathlessness, decreased lung function, increased inflammation and exacerbations,” explain Simon Francis Thomsen and team from Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.

They add: “Up to 30% of asthma patients report forgetfulness to be one of the main reasons for their poor adherence indicating an area with room for improvement.”

To investigate whether cell phone SMS reminders can improve adherence to prescribed asthma medications, the researchers enrolled 26 patients with the respiratory condition, aged between 18 and 45 years, who received an 8-week course of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and a prescription for a further 4-week course of ICS.

From week 4, the participants were divided into two groups to receive either a daily text message on their cell phones at 10 am reminding them to take their medications (n=12) or no such intervention (n=14).

There were no significant differences between the two groups regarding lung function measurements, age, previous use of asthma medications, or other demographic characteristics at baseline, the researchers note in journal Respiratory Medicine.

They found that, from week 4 to week 12, the mean adherence rate in the text message group increased from 77.9% to 81.5% (mean change=3.6%) but decreased in the control group from 84.2% to 70.1% (mean change=-14.2%). The absolute difference in mean adherence rate between the two groups after 12 weeks was 17.8%.

However, secondary outcomes, such as exhaled nitric oxide levels, lung function, and airway responsiveness, did not differ between the two groups after 12 weeks.

Thomsen and team conclude: “A daily SMS reminder was found to have a significant effect on adherence to asthma treatment.”

They add: “As non-adherence is not only problematic in respect to asthma treatment, it also opens the possibility for a daily SMS reminder to improve adherence to treatment regimens across a larger spectrum of chronic diseases.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2009

By Mark Cowen

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