Uppsala researcher in EU-initiative for better medication adherence

2020-11-10

Getting patients to take their drugs correctly is one of healthcare's biggest and oldest challenges. Now experts from 39 European countries are joining forces in the ENABLE project to make a difference. "We have good conditions for success," says Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology.

Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology
Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology

"Drugs don't work in patients who don't take them" stated C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, as early as 1985. Medication adherence has hardly improved since then, and studies show that half of all patients with chronic diseases do not take their medications as prescribed. In Europe alone, the problem is estimated to cost 200,000 lives and € 100 billion, and the EU's Horizon 2020 program now allocates four years of funding to experts in 39 European countries to work together to reverse the trend.

“Even Hippocrates noted the problem of adherence, so it is certainly not a new challenge we are facing. Today we live longer, and with old age more diseases and treatments follow. Of course, healthcare have access to better drugs, but to what use if we do not use them properly. A range of methods and technical devices have been developed to support healthcare professionals and patients to improve compliance, but they are poorly implemented and there is a lack of consensus between different stakeholders. Therefore, we are now starting this major collaboration with branches in all EU countries, which gives us good conditions for success,” says Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at Uppsala University.

Björn Wettermark identifies good conditions for success

The ENABLE project will run five working groups with representants from academia, healthcare and industry. These groups will study the extent of the problem and barriers for improvement in various disease areas. They will also build a digitally searchable library of quality-assured methods, as well as analyze the European healthcare systems and methods for effective implementations. Planned activities also include education and communication. At an initial meeting, group leaders were appointed to a steering committee, which will form working groups with the competence and geographical breadth required to achieve the goals. Here, Björn Wettermark was appointed leader of the working group with a focus on communication.

“Due to the pandemic, we decided to have the kickoff online with digital discussions in which all 39 countries participated. Now we have started to create an organization that can deliver for the next four years, but we also work with a longer perspective than that. Healthcare, drug treatments and available techniques for improved compliance are constantly evolving, so we must have a plan for managing the platforms we create if they are to generate lasting value. Our ambition is to establish one expertise center in each country, and here I believe that Uppsala has what it takes to run the work in Sweden.”

Among the city's assets, Björn Wettermark mentions the university's breadth - not least the faculties of medicine and medicine and its educational programs, the healthcare in Uppsala Region, the Medical Products Agency and the geographical proximity to Stockholm. But before choosing a direction, the national conditions must be examined: What exists and what is needed? Which professions and organisations need to participate in the work? Succeeding in identifying, implementing and communicating best technologies and practices for compliance requires interdisciplinary collaboration between a wide range of actors - both for exchange of knowledge and practical scientific work.

“Sweden has many valuable resources, not least our National Quality Registers. Butimprovement in adherence requires the involvement of patients, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as authorities and the industry. For those who want to get involved, ENABLE may offer financial support for research collaborations, but we also need networks for discussions on thoughts and ideas. Medication adherence is a great challenge, but now the EU has provided us with a platform to address the problem.”

FACTS

  • ENABLE – European network to advance best practices & technology on medication adherence – is a network of researchers, clinicians and industry partners from 39 countries that 2020–2024 will focus on:
  • Stimulating multidisciplinary medication adherence expertise centers in different European countries.
  • Reviewing novel adherence enhancing technologies and catalysing their implementation.
  • Organising conferences, stakeholder meetings and short-term fellowships for early career investigators.

More information

Contact

Contact Björn WettermarkBjörn Wettermark, Uppsala University
Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, Department of Pharmacy
bjorn.wettermark@farmaci.uu.se

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: private, Matton

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Last modified: 2021-06-22