Tuesday, 15th November, 2016

A fifth of full time workers run out of their regular medication due to hectic lifestyles

  • Research supports the launch of Echo, a new app to help patients manage medication, which could save the NHS millions.

  • Started by former Apple and LloydsPharmacy execs, with £1.8m in funding led by LocalGlobe.

  • Those with children are the most likely to run out of medication, with a fifth too busy to get to the chemist.

  • A third of 25-34 year olds have unintentionally run out of drugs vs. just 6% of over 60

Busy professionals and parents are the least likely to take their medication properly, putting their health at risk and costing the NHS millions of pounds. New research published today has found that those in full-time employment are the least likely to follow GP’s guidelines, with a fifth regularly running out of medicine.

Patients aged 25-34 years are the worst at making sure they take their medicine, with more than a third (37%) admitting that they occasionally forget to request a repeat prescription in time. Of those surveyed, 27% confess to booking an emergency GP appointment and 7% to going to A&E just to obtain a repeat prescription. Across the wider population, men are twice as likely as women to require an emergency appointment. Worryingly, 23% of 35-44 years olds say that they have gone without medication due to not having a prescription.

Those with children under 16 are amongst the least adherent - the term used to describe patients who fail to follow GP’s recommendations. A quarter of parents admit they unintentionally run out of medication and a fifth say they are too busy to get to the chemist. By contrast, only 6% of retirees say they have unintentionally run out.

“This research confirms what we suspected and is why we started Echo” says Dr Sai Lakshmi, CEO of Echo and a former Apple executive. “Half of all under 65s now take a repeat prescription but the pressures of juggling kids and careers means many are not taking their medication properly. This is a huge drain on the NHS.”

"We both take repeat medication so Echo was borne out of our shared frustration with a system that’s confusing and has yet to properly take advantage of mobile technology," says Stephen Bourke, CXO of Echo and a former executive with LloydsPharmacy. “There are too many barriers to obtaining a repeat prescription, from having to take time off work to attend a GP appointment, to the pharmacy not having enough medication in stock. Echo brings the whole process to your smartphone, with delivery to your door. Our goal is to simplify things, maximising medication possession, minimising fuss.”

“Once the user has their medication, the chances are they will take it properly,” says Dr Lakshmi. “Forgetfulness is the number one reason for non-adherence. With UK smartphone penetration passing 80%, there’s a huge opportunity to use mobile technology to nudge people towards better health. We want to make adherence the path of least resistance, significantly improving health outcomes and reducing waste.”

Echo launches today with a £1.8m seed investment round led by LocalGlobe and supported by Global Founders Capital. The app makes life easier for people on long-term medication by removing the hassle of repeat prescription management. Users make requests via the app which are sent to their existing NHS GP for approval. Once approved, prescriptions are sent to Echo’s partner pharmacies for dispensing, and dispatched by Royal Mail.

Echo works with existing prescription workflows, so it’s compatible with all NHS GP surgeries. The app also uses natural language processing to convert GP directions into reminders, automatically prompting users when to take their medication and when they’re about to run out.

Founders Dr Sai Lakshmi and Stephen Bourke have built a multidisciplinary team of doctors, pharmacists and technologists, united in their mission to improve medication adherence. The team also works with a leading London GP practice, the Hurley Group, to optimise communication between patient, GP and pharmacist.

Dr Murray Ellender, GP Partner at the Hurley Group, said: “We are excited to be working with Echo as it provides patients with a hassle-free way to better manage their medication. A doctor’s time is precious, so by eliminating unnecessary appointments Echo will make our GP’s lives easier and improve clinical outcomes for patients”


  • Research was conducted independently by Aurora Market Research, on behalf of Echo.
  • Echo is a free service - users only pay the standard prescription charge of £8.40 per item. Patients entitled to free prescriptions pay nothing. Second class postage is provided free of charge.
  • Echo’s business model is based on taking a percentage cut of the gross profit available to its partner pharmacies. Echo currently works with ten pharmacies across London and the South East, who can dispatch to anywhere in the UK.
  • Echo leverages the NHS Electronic Prescription Service to manage prescription requests but can also be used with the remaining 20% of GP practices not currently set up for electronic prescribing, as well as surgeries in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimates that between a third and a half of all medicines prescribed for long‑term conditions are not taken as recommended; the cost of non-adherence is easiest understood in terms of medicine waste, estimated by the Department of Health as costing £300m pa. The true cost, driven by diminished clinical outcomes, is in tens of billions.
  • Echo is supported by LocalGlobe, the leading early-stage VC that previously backed TransferWise, Lovefilm, Osper and Zoopla. Echo is also backed by Global Founders Capital.