UCL School of Pharmacy


Behavioural Medicine

Our research aims to provide new knowledge to make healthcare more efficient and sustainable by understanding and addressing the factors influencing medicines behaviour.

The development of evidence-based interventions to optimise treatment behaviours (e.g. practitioner prescribing and patient adherence) is a core aspect of our work. We consider the role of psychosocial factors in determining the physiological effects of treatment. Studies of placebo and nocebo mechanisms methods for enhancing the non-specific beneficial effects of treatments (‘placebo’ responses) and minimising the non-specific adverse effects (‘nocebo’ responses).

woman doctor in consultation

Research Topics

Research within the cluster draws on a wide range of disciplines including health psychology epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, health economics, engineering and healthcare law and ethics. The cluster has extensive collaborations throughout UCL, particularly within the SLMS Faculty of Population Health Sciences. Through these links and a range of national and international collaborations the cluster provides new knowledge to facilitate the cost-effective use of medicines and other treatments.

Research areas include:

  • The development of evidence-based interventions to support optimal adherence and persistence to appropriately prescribed treatments for long-term conditions and infectious diseases.
  • Developing valid and reliable methods for assessing user perspectives of illness, treatment and healthcare.
  • Assessing public perceptions of medicines and how perceptions (and other factors) influence the use and effects of medicines.
  • Applying new technologies (e.g. e-communication) and interfaces (e.g. social media) to enhance patient engagement with care and to improve patient-practitioner communication.
  • Developing interventions to improve the outcomes of treatments by enhancing nonspecific positive effects (‘placebo’ responses) and reducing nonspecific negative effects (‘nocebo’ responses).
  • Understanding prescribing behaviour and developing interventions to optimise prescribing.
  • Antibiotic stewardship and developing interventions to improve antibiotic usage by understanding and optimising demand for antibiotics and prescribing behaviour.
  • Applying pharmacoepidemiologial techniques to understand patterns of prescribing and adherence, and so to identify priorities for interventions to optimise medication-related behaviour (prescribing and adherence.
  • Mind-body interactions in health and illness.

Current Projects

We currently have many research projects underway where we could use some smart Phd students or other resources. Contact details are listed for each project.

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Applying the MRC framework to the development of interventions to facilitate informed choice and optimise treatment-related beha

Current treatment for HIV (antiretroviral therapy) is extremely effective however many patients in the UK may not be getting the best from this treatment. Research suggests over a quarter of patients delay accepting treatment when it is recommended and a third do not take treatment as prescribed. 

Contact: Robert Horne


Research to Improve the Detection and Treatment of Latent Tuberculosis Infection (RID-TB)

The number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the UK has increased over the past three decades, and remains high despite a recent decline. There were over 6,000 cases in 2016. The UK has the second highest rate of TB in Western Europe and four times that of the US. 

Contact: Robert Horne

breast cancer flow chart

Improving outcomeS for Women diagnosed with early breast cancer through adhErence to adjuvant Endocrine Therapy (SWEET)

In 2016, 11,563 women died from breast cancer in the UK. Most would have been prescribed endocrine therapy (ET); sometimes known as hormone therapy, which blocks the effect of oestrogen on breast cancer cells. ET is prescribed as a daily tablet, usually for at least five years. When women stop taking ET prematurely, or don t take it as prescribed (known as “poor adherence”), they have up to a three times higher chance of the cancer returning and dying from cancer. 

Contact: Robert Horne