Background. Although some interventions have been shown to improve adherence to medication for diabetes, results are not consistent. We have developed a theory-based intervention which we will evaluate in a well characterised population to test efficacy and guide future intervention development and trial design. Methods and Design. The SAMS (Supported Adherence to Medication Study) trial is a primary care based multi-centre randomised controlled trial among 200 patients with type 2 diabetes and an HbA1c of 7.5% or above. It is designed to evaluate the efficacy of a two-component motivational intervention based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour and volitional action planning to support medication adherence compared with standard care. The intervention is delivered by practice nurses. Nurses were trained using a workshop approach with role play and supervised using assessment of tape-recorded consultations. The trial has a two parallel groups design with an unbalanced three-to-two individual randomisation eight weeks after recruitment with twelve week follow-up. The primary outcome is medication adherence measured using an electronic medication monitor over 12 weeks and expressed as the difference between intervention and control in mean percentage of days on which the correct number of medication doses is taken. Subgroup analyses will explore impact of number of medications taken, age, HbA1c, and self-reported adherence at baseline on outcomes. The study also measures the effect of dispensing medication to trial participants packaged in the electronic medication- monitoring device compared with conventional medication packaging. This will be achieved through one-to-one randomisation at recruitment to these conditions with assessment of the difference between groups in self-report of medication adherence and change in mean HbA1c from baseline to eight weeks. Anonymised demographic data are collected on non-respondents. Central randomisation is carried out independently of trial co-ordination and practices using minimisation to adjust for selected confounders. Discussion. The SAMS intervention and trial design address weaknesses of previous research by recruitment from a well-characterised population, definition of a feasible theory based intervention to support medication taking and careful measurement to estimate and interpret efficacy. The results will inform practice and the design of a cost-effectiveness trial [ISRCTN30522359].