Beeping bottle caps, videos attack drug adherence

A third to one-half of patients in the U.S. with chronic conditions don't follow their prescribed meds, a problem that drugmakers, providers and payers would all like to be improved.

Research suggests that meds in so-called reminder packs--blister packs with calendars--can help. And if that doesn't work, a new technology for bottles that beep at patients who miss doses might be the ticket, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Novartis ($NVS) and consulting firm Xcenda found that patients who got their Diovan HCT in blister packs with calendars bought refills 5 days sooner than those getting them in traditional amber bottles and stayed on their meds 22 days longer over the course of a year, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Some pharmacies such as Wal-Mart and Kroger are already using reminder packs for some drugs to set themselves apart from competitors. Wal-Mart intends to expand their use this year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Payers may also begin looking hard at what kind of packaging they want to pay for. Under provisions of the Affordable Healthcare Act going into effect next year, reimbursements to health plans for Medicare patients can be docked if they are not keeping up with refills for their cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes drugs.

Concern over the problem, and over whether information about how and when to take meds has gotten too complicated, is leading to a number of technology solutions. Vitality is offering a pill bottle lid with a wireless chip that alerts patients with a light and sounds if patients forget to take their meds. And for the label, CueScript is making bottles with QR codes that patients can scan with their smartphone. They download a video that explains all of the info that they otherwise would have to read the small print to get. 

Of course, packaging is no small cost for drugmakers. Duke University Professor Hayden Bosworth, who is studying compliance, says more research is needed to weigh costs and benefits. 

- read the Wall Street Journal story