Nav: Home

Sorting out who needs a pill sorter

August 07, 2019

Researchers at the University of East Anglia have developed guidance to help prescribers and pharmacists decide which patients should use a pill organiser.

The team's previous research has shown that switching to using an organiser can do more harm than good.

Their latest study, published today, reveals that pharmacies are giving out twice as many pill organisers as they were ten years ago.

It is hoped that the new guidance will help prescribers better understand which patients' health could be put at risk by using an organiser. It will also help patients and their carers know what they can ask for to help with taking medicines as prescribed.

Lead researcher Dr Debi Bhattacharya, from UEA's School of Pharmacy, said: "A lot of people use pill organisers to help them take the right medication at the right time of the day.

"The fact that using a pill organiser could cause harm to patients sounds rather counterintuitive. But our research showed that patients were more likely to become unwell when they switched from taking their medication straight from the packet to using a pill organiser. In some cases, older people can even end up being hospitalised.

"This is likely because when the patients had been taking their medication sporadically, they weren't getting the expected health improvements. Their doctor may therefore have increased the dose of the medication to try to get the desired effect.

"When these patients were switched to a pill organiser and suddenly started taking all of their medication as prescribed, they experienced side effects of the medication.

"With usual medication packets, if a patient doesn't get on with a particular pill it's easy to deliberately miss it. A drawback to organisers is that the patient can't tell which pill they want to miss so sometimes they stop taking all of their pills. This can lead to serious health complications that wouldn't have occurred if they had simply skipped that one tablet."

The new study shows that the provision of organisers by pharmacies has more than doubled in a decade. But pharmacists are not considering the risk of adverse events arising from a patient's sudden increased adherence to their medication.

To combat these problems, the research team developed a set of guidelines for healthcare teams to work with patients to decide who might benefit from pill organisers and who may get better results with other solutions such as easy open medicine bottles or coloured labelling.

The 'Medication Adherence Support Decision Aid' (MASDA) guidance has been endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. And the research team hope that it will be adopted by the NHS.

Dr Bhattacharya said: "Until now there has been no guidance about which patients should be using medication organisers.

"Our new algorithm encourages prescribers to consider the emotional and practical barriers that might stop patients taking their medication correctly.

"Emotional barriers to taking medication as prescribed can include things like whether the patient is anxious or lacking confidence, lacking motivation or experiencing unwanted side effects. In all of these cases, using a pill organiser is likely to be inappropriate.

"Better solutions are likely to be identifying social support to boost the patient's confidence, providing information on medication benefits, agreeing goals or even stopping the medication."

"Practical barriers include things like whether the patient has impaired manual dexterity, visual impairment or difficulty remembering. In these cases, using an organiser may be appropriate but it's important to first seek other potential solutions.

"These solutions could range from providing medication in bottles without childproof lids, using colour coded bottles or helping the patient develop routines and reminders.

"When switching from usual packaging to a pill organiser, we recommend that patients speak to their GP or pharmacist to check that the doses of their medication are appropriate."

"People who are already using a pill organiser without any ill effects should not stop using it as they do seem to help some patients take their medication as prescribed. It's the switching stage which appears to be the danger."
'Quantifying and characterising Multi-compartment Compliance Aid provision; a national survey of community pharmacies' is published in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy on Thursday, August 8, 2019.

For more information about the Medication Adherence Support Decision Aid (MASDA), visit

University of East Anglia

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day
It began with a tweet: "EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY." Carl Zimmer – tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show – tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure ... and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic. This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser. Support Radiolab today at