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Bull World Health Organ. Dec 2004; 82(12): 935–939.
Published online Jan 5, 2005.
PMCID: PMC2623099

Do fixed-dose combination pills or unit-of-use packaging improve adherence? A systematic review.


Adequate adherence to medication regimens is central to the successful treatment of communicable and noncommunicable disease. Fixed-dose combination pills and unit-of-use packaging are therapy-related interventions that are designed to simplify medication regimens and so potentially improve adherence. We conducted a systematic review of relevant randomized trials in order to quantify the effects of fixed-dose combination pills and unit-of-use packaging, compared with medications as usually presented, in terms of adherence to treatment and improved outcomes. Only 15 trials met the inclusion criteria; fixed-dose combination pills were investigated in three of these, while unit-of-use packaging was studied in 12 trials. The trials involved treatments for communicable diseases (n = 5), blood pressure lowering medications (n = 3), diabetic patients (n = 1), vitamin supplementation (n = 1) and management of multiple medications by the elderly (n = 5). The results of the trials suggested that there were trends towards improved adherence and/or clinical outcomes in all but three of the trials; this reached statistical significance in four out of seven trials reporting a clinically relevant or intermediate end-point, and in seven out of thirteen trials reporting medication adherence. Measures of outcome were, however, heterogeneous, and interpretation was further limited by methodological issues, particularly small sample size, short duration and loss to follow-up. Overall, the evidence suggests that fixed-dose combination pills and unit-of-use packaging are likely to improve adherence in a range of settings, but the limitations of the available evidence means that uncertainty remains about the size of these benefits.

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