Telephone delivered incentives for encouraging adherence to supervised methadone consumption (TIES): Study protocol for a feasibility study for an RCT of clinical and cost effectiveness

Nicola Metrebian, Timothy Weaver, Stephen Pilling, Kimberley Goldsmith, Ewan Carr, James Shearer, Kathryn Woolston-thomas, Basak Tas, Carol-ann Getty, Charlotte Cooper, Rob Van Der Waal, Michael Kelleher, Emily Finch, Prun Bijral, David Taylor, Jenny Scott, John Strang

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The majority of people receiving treatment for their heroin addiction, are prescribed methadone; for which there is an extensive evidence base. When treatment starts, people take their daily dose of methadone under supervision at a community pharmacy. Supervision guarantees methadone is taken as directed by the individual for whom it has been prescribed, helps to ensure individuals take their correct dose every day, and safeguards against diversion and overdose. However, individuals often fail to attend the pharmacy to take their methadone. Each missed dose is of concern. If a patient misses their daily dose of methadone, they will start to experience opiate withdrawal and cravings and are more likely to use heroin. If they miss three days dose, there are concerns that they may lose tolerance to the drug and may be at risk of overdose when the next dose is taken. Hence there is an urgent need to develop effective interventions for medication adherence. Research suggests that incentive-based medication adherence interventions may be very effective, but there are few controlled trials and the provision of incentives requires time and organisational systems which can be challenging in pharmacies. The investigators have developed the technology to deliver incentives by mobile telephone. This cluster randomised trial will test the feasibility of conducting a future trial evaluating the clinical and cost effectiveness of using telephone delivered incentives (praise and modest financial rewards via text messaging) to encourage adherence with supervised consumption of methadone in community pharmacies. Three drug services (each with two or three community pharmacies supervising methadone consumption that will enrol 20 individuals, a total of 60 participants) will be recruited and randomly allocated to deliver either i) telephone delivered incentives, ii) telephone delivered reminders or iii) no telephone system. Acceptability, recruitment, follow-up, and suitable measures of clinical and cost effectiveness will be assessed. Findings from this feasibility study will be assessed against stated progression criteria and used to inform a future confirmatory trial of the clinical and cost effectiveness of telephone delivered incentives to encourage medication adherence.

Trial registration: ISRCTN58958179 (retrospectively registered).

Original languageEnglish
Article number100506
Pages (from-to)100506
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials Communications
Early online date10 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Behavioural reinforcement
  • Contingency management
  • Financial incentives
  • Heroin use
  • Medication adherence
  • Methadone
  • Opiate substitution treatment
  • Pharmacies
  • Supervised consumption


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