Drug-reminder app didn’t improve blood pressure, study finds

April 17 (UPI) — A smartphone app with a reminder significantly improved medication use among adults with hypertension, but did not help improve blood pressure results, according to a recent study.

With around 160 smartphone apps available on iPhone and Android smartphones, researchers wanted to see the effects of Medisafe on patients with hypertension. The results of the study were published Monday in the Journal of American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine.

About 34 percent of U.S. adults 20 years or older have hypertension, and more than 73,000 deaths each year are credited to it, according to the American Heart Association.

Researchers noted that not taking the prescribed medication accounts for up to half of all cases of uncontrolled hypertension.

“The availability of smartphone health apps has expanded quickly,” researchers wrote in the study. “However, there has been a lack of rigorous evaluation to date, with most studies relying on self-report and not including a clinically important outcome. The MedISAFE-BP trial is, to our knowledge, the first randomized clinical trial reporting the effect of a stand-alone mHealth platform to increase medication adherence and improve blood pressure control.”

The researchers enrolled 411 participants in the study who had poorly controlled high blood pressure and were prescribed one to three antihypertensive medications. The mean age of participants was 52, with a mean body mass index of 35.5 and systolic blood pressure of 151.

The participants were split into two groups — 209 were instructed to download the Medisafe app and 202 participants were not told to download anything. Over the course of the following 12 weeks, the researchers tracked self-reported medication adherence and changes to blood pressure.

The app includes reminder alerts, adherence reports and optional peer support.

“We found significant improvement in medication adherence, but no difference in systolic blood pressure between the intervention and control groups,” the researchers wrote.

The mean score on the Morisky medication adherence scale improved by 0.4 among intervention participants, and remained unchanged among controls. And, after 12 weeks, the mean systolic blood pressure decreased by 10.6 among intervention participants and 10.1 among controls.

“Our findings suggest that the app was most useful in people with the poorest medication adherence. In these people, adherence increased from ‘low’ to ‘moderate,’” Dr. Niteesh Choudhry, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, told MedPage Today. “It may be that we would have to achieve high adherence to see a change in control.”

The researchers suggest that blood pressure results could be improved with more disease-specific customization of smartphone tools, as well as linking the app to clinical care.

Medisafe, which markets the app, funded the study.