Mobile phone text messaging for medication adherence in secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease

Julie Redfern*, Qiang Tu, Karice Hyun, Matthew A. Hollings, Nashid Hafiz, Clara Zwack, Caroline Free, Pablo Perel, Clara K. Chow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review



Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, accounting for almost 18 million deaths annually. People with CVDs have a five times greater chance of suffering a recurrent cardiovascular event than people without known CVDs. Although drug interventions have been shown to be cost-effective in reducing the risk of recurrent cardiovascular events, adherence to medication remains suboptimal. As a scalable and cost-effective approach, mobile phone text messaging presents an opportunity to convey health information, deliver electronic reminders, and encourage behaviour change. However, it is uncertain whether text messaging can improve medication adherence and clinical outcomes. This is an update of a Cochrane review published in 2017. 


To evaluate the benefits and harms of mobile phone text messaging for improving medication adherence in people with CVDs compared to usual care. 

Search methods: 

We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, four other databases, and two trial registers. We also checked the reference lists of all primary included studies and relevant systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The date of the latest search was 30 August 2023. 

Selection criteria: 

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with participants with established arterial occlusive events. We included trials investigating interventions using short message service (SMS) or multimedia messaging service (MMS) with the aim of improving adherence to medication for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular events. The comparator was usual care. We excluded cluster-RCTs and quasi-RCTs. 

Data collection and analysis: 

We used standard Cochrane methods. Our primary outcomes were medication adherence, fatal cardiovascular events, non-fatal cardiovascular events, and combined CVD event. Secondary outcomes were low-density lipoprotein cholesterol for the effect of statins, blood pressure for antihypertensive drugs, heart rate for the effect of beta-blockers, urinary 11-dehydrothromboxane B2 for the antiplatelet effects of aspirin, adverse effects, and patient-reported experience. We used GRADE to assess the certainty of the evidence for each outcome. 

Main results: 

We included 18 RCTs involving a total of 8136 participants with CVDs. We identified 11 new studies in the review update and seven studies in the previous version of the review. Participants had various CVDs including acute coronary syndrome, coronary heart disease, stroke, myocardial infarction, and angina. All studies were conducted in middle- and high-income countries, with no studies conducted in low-income countries. The mean age of participants was 53 to 64 years. Participants were recruited from hospitals or cardiac rehabilitation facilities. Follow-up ranged from one to 12 months. There was variation in the characteristics of text messages amongst studies (e.g. delivery method, frequency, theoretical grounding, content used, personalisation, and directionality). The content of text messages varied across studies, but generally included medication reminders and healthy lifestyle information such as diet, physical activity, and weight loss. Text messages offered advice, motivation, social support, and health education to promote behaviour changes and regular medication-taking. We assessed risk of bias for all studies as high, as all studies had at least one domain at unclear or high risk of bias. 

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD011851
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


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