Take as directed? U.K. health service teams with academics, pharmacy on drug adherence

It's an established fact: Many patients don't take their meds as directed. Another established fact: That failure costs the healthcare system hundreds of billions. A third: Solutions are difficult to come by.

That's why the U.K.'s National Health Service is teaming up with university researchers and a pharmacy chain to work on the problem. The idea is to focus on patients who've been discharged from the hospital, to help them take their follow-up prescriptions properly.

"The research aims to find a new process that provides safe and effective management of medicines for patients from the hospital to the community, with an enhanced role for community pharmacies," Liverpool John Moores University says in a statement about the new program, which will be directed out of the school's new Centre for Pharmacy Innovation.

Drugmakers have been tackling the adherence puzzle themselves, for obvious reasons. When patients don't take their drugs and then refill them, pharma companies lose out on sales. West Pharmaceuticals ($WST) recently teamed up with HealthPrize to develop a game that rewards patients when they take their meds as directed and get refills on time. West plans to integrate its "smart" injectors into the program.

Meanwhile, Boehringer Ingelheim has started testing a device that keeps track of doses dispensed from the company's Respimat inhalers. The German drugmaker is also experimenting with a drug bottle that alerts patients when a dose is due. Novartis has found that lower-tech solutions can also be helpful: The company found that patients who received their Diovan HCT in blister packs with calendars bought refills sooner than those whose scripts were dispensed in amber bottles.

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