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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Oct;18(10):1932-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.35. Epub 2010 Feb 25.

Disparity in physician perception of patients' adherence to medications by obesity status.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. mhuizinga@jhmi.edu


Physician perception of medication adherence may alter prescribing patterns. Perception of patients has been linked to readily observable factors, such as race and age. Obesity shares a similar stigma to these factors in society. We hypothesized that physicians would perceive patients with a higher BMI as nonadherent to medication. Data were collected from the baseline visit of a randomized clinical trial of patient-physician communication (240 patients and 40 physicians). Physician perception of patient medication adherence was measured on a Likert scale and dichotomized as fully adherent or not fully adherent. BMI was the predictor of interest. We performed Poisson regression analyses with robust variance estimates, adjusting for clustering of patients within physicians, to examine the association between BMI and physician perception of medication adherence. The mean (s.d.) BMI was 32.6 (7.7) kg/m(2). Forty-five percent of patients were perceived as nonadherent to medications by their physicians. Higher BMI was significantly and negatively associated with being perceived as adherent to medication (prevalence ratio (PrR) 0.76, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.64-0.90; P = 0.002; per 10 kg/m(2) increase in BMI). BMI remained significantly and negatively associated with physician perception of medication adherence after adjustment for patient and physician characteristics (PrR 0.80, 95% CI: 0.66-0.96; P = 0.020). In this study, patients with higher BMI were less likely to be perceived as adherent to medications by their providers. Physician perception of medication adherence has been shown to affect prescribing patterns in other studies. More work is needed to understand how this perception may affect the care of patients with obesity.

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