ONE of China's largest drug companies is hoping to cash in on Hong Kong-developed technology which reduces the number of pills patients have to swallow. The Chengdu Pharmaceutical Company has signed an agreement with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, giving the company access to the technique which regulates dosage release inside the body. The university's Drug Delivery Technology Centre has developed ways of manufacturing drugs which dissolve at a controlled rate. It avoids the common problem of high drug concentration in the bloodstream at the beginning of intake and low dosage towards the end - a phenomenon which causes many side effects. As well, the technique reduces the number of pills taken by patients on high levels of medication. 'Most people hate taking pills. Drug compliance is a big problem with patients who need to take a lot of drugs regularly,' the university's Technology Transfer Centre development manager Chung Wai-ming said. 'With this technique, they don't need to swallow as many pills because you can design the dosage release rate.' University officials declined to reveal how much the centre had been paid for the technology. The pharmaceutical company is expected to apply the method to a wide range of drugs for treating arthritis, heart conditions and respiratory diseases. It is likely to be used for two widely available drugs for colds, terfenadine and pseudoephedrine. Biochemistry professor Jeffrey Wong Tze-fei said the dissolution rate could be controlled through a special coating on the pill's surface or by regulating the size of the particles in the pill.