New tech helps teen transplant recipients take their meds
Making mistakes is part of being a teenager – but for a teenage transplant recipient, some mistakes can lead to tragic results.
Now, researchers at the Montreal Children's Hospital and research centres in the U.S. have found a way to use popular technology to help with lifesaving decisions.
The researchers conducted a study called TAKE-IT funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health.
The participants, aged 11-24, were given an electronic pillbox that notified a secure website each time they opened the lid.
Reminder texts could be sent to their phones - or to their parents' phones.
“We call that e-nagging,” said Children’s Hospital pediatric nephrologist Beth Foster with a laugh.
The 169 patients also met regularly with personal coaches over the span of a year.
The results of the published study showed that using the digital pillbox along with the coaching translated to a 66 per cent higher adherence to anti-rejection medicine than the control group.
“I can say that it saved my life, pretty much,” said Audrey Grenier.
Born with congenital kidney malformations, Audrey finally received a lifesaving transplant when she was 13.
Back then, important technology failed, making for a dramatic trip to the hospital
“Usually they give you a pager to be able to reach you, but where I was living back then, the signal was really bad,” she said.
The Surete du Quebec had to be dispatched to pick her up.
The kidney transplant was a great success, but it forced Audrey to take on new responsibilities – something she wasn’t entirely prepared for.
“When I wanted to (skip) the side effects and be able to go through my week or my day, I was skipping some doses,” she said.
Missing just a few doses of anti-rejection drugs is dangerous.
“Something that all of this who do this work see often is young people with rejections, sometimes with loss of their kidney transplant, and often that's because they haven't taken their medications as they should have,” said Foster.
“We know that adolescents and young adults have rates of loss of their graft two to three times higher than younger children,” she said. “And their chances of serious complications or even of death are 30 times higher than a healthy person of the same age.”
Given the shortage of organs, every loss of a kidney is a loss for the whole transplant community.
But thanks to TAKE-IT, Audrey said she hasn't missed a dose for five years.
“This is really the first time that we figured out a way that worked,” she said.