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J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2003 Nov-Dec;43(6):668-78; quiz 678-9.

Improving adherence and persistence: a review and assessment of interventions and description of steps toward a national adherence initiative.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy Care Systems, Harrison School of Pharmacy, 128 Miller Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA.



To identify the effectiveness of adherence interventions reported in the literature, to identify interventions being conducted and/or sponsored by large chain pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers, and to seek input from a panel of pharmacists who address adherence issues on a daily basis as to the steps that should be taken to advance a national initiative to increase awareness of the importance of and opportunities associated with medication adherence and persistence.


Effectiveness of the adherence interventions reported in the literature.


First, a literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Keywords were medication or drug and compliance or adherence or persistence and control group. Second, pharmaceutical manufacturers and chain pharmacies were surveyed. Third, an advisory panel reacted to the research findings and formulated a series of action steps that could support or be part of a national initiative to increase adherence.


Reported adherence-related interventions were grouped into five categories--adherence aids, refill or follow-up reminders, regimen simplification, written and oral education, and comprehensive management. Median adherence increases ranged from 6% to 25% for these categories. Interviews with 10 chain pharmacies revealed that adherence is an important issue. Most chains have some form of adherence program in place, but current initiatives are product-focused rather than patient-focused. Interviews with 15 manufacturers revealed that they currently use a variety of adherence interventions and want to partner with pharmacies to implement and assess the initiatives. The advisory panel developed a series of action items for implementing a national adherence initiative.


Comprehensive interventions can improve adherence and are mutually beneficial for patients, pharmacies, and manufacturers. Pharmacists must be able to assess patients' adherence, identify the reasons for nonadherence, and develop patient-specific interventions. Studies have shown that the most successful interventions have some follow-up component and address the underlying reason(s) for nonadherence. Pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufacturers have tried various adherence interventions, such as patient education and refill reminders. There is a growing sense that a national adherence initiative is needed to coordinate pharmacists' efforts to address this public health problem, and the American Pharmacists Association is well positioned to take a leadership role in such efforts.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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