Methods to Increase Medication Adherence Are Lacking

Current interventions aimed to enhance patients' adherence to prescribed medications are not very effective, according to a recent review of trials that tested combinations of several different approaches.

Current interventions aimed to enhance patients’ adherence to prescribed medications are not very effective, according to a recent review of trials that tested combinations of several different approaches.

Of the 182 trials examined in the review, only 17 were of high quality, and just 5 of them demonstrated improvements in medication adherence and health outcomes from interventions such as support from family members or pharmacists, education, and counseling.

"The studies varied so much in terms of their design and their results that it would have been misleading to try to come up with general conclusions," said lead study author Robby Nieuwlaat of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, in a press release. "Based on this evidence, it is uncertain how adherence to medication can be consistently improved. We need to see larger and higher quality trials, which better take in account individual patient's problems with adherence."

The experts emphasized that half of patients do not take their medications as prescribed, so improved efforts to assist those patients with medication adherence might increase the benefits of their prescribed drugs.

"This review addresses one of the biggest challenges in health care," said The Cochrane Library Editor-in-Chief David Tovey. "It's a real surprise that the vast amount of research that has been done has not moved us further forward in our understanding of how to address this problem. With the costs of health care across the world increasing, we've never needed evidence to answer this question more than we do now."