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BMC Pulm Med. 2011 Jan 24;11:6. doi: 10.1186/1471-2466-11-6.

Is it possible to diagnose the therapeutic adherence of patients with COPD in clinical practice? A cohort study.

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Family and Community Medicine Teaching Unit of Malaga, Health District Malaga, Málaga, Spain.



Therapeutic adherence of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is poor. It is therefore necessary to determine the magnitude of non-adherence to develop strategies to correct this behaviour. The purpose of this study was to analyse the diagnostic validity of indirect adherence methods.



195 COPD patients undergoing scheduled inhaled treatment attending 5 Primary Care Centres of Malaga, Spain.


Sociodemographic profile, illness data, spirometry, quality of life (St. George Respiratory Questionnaire: SGRQ), and inhaled medication counting (count of dose/pill or electronic monitoring) were collected. The patient's knowledge of COPD (Batalla test:BT),their attitude towards treatment (Morisky-Green test: MGT) and their self-reported therapeutic adherence (Haynes-Sackett test: HST) were used as methods of evaluating adherence. The follow-up consisted four visits over one year (the recruitment visit: V0; and after 1 month:V1; 6 months:V2; and 1 year:V3).


The mean age was 69.59 (95% CI, 68.29-70.89) years old and 93.8% were male. Other findings included: 85.4% had a low educational level, 23.6% were smokers, 71.5% mild-moderate COPD stage with a FEV1 = 56.86 (SD = 18.85); exacerbations per year = 1.41(95% CI, 1-1.8). The total SGRQ score was 44.96 (95% CI, 42.46-47.46), showing a mild self-perceived impairment in health. The prevalence of adherence (dose/pill count) was 68.1% (95% CI, 60.9-75.3) at V1, 80% (95% CI, 73-87) at V2 and 84% (95% CI, 77.9) at V3. The MGT showed a specificity of 67.34% at V1, 76.19% at V2 and 69.62% at V3. The sensitivity was 53.33% at V1, 66.66% at V2 and 33.33% at V3.The BT showed a specificity of 55.1% at V1, 70.23% at V2 and 67.09% at V3. The sensitivity was 68.88% at V1, 71.43% at V2 and 46.66% at V3. Considering both tests together, the specificity was 86.73% at V1, 94.04% at V2 and 92.49% at V3 and the sensitivity was 37.77% at V1, 47.62% at V2 and 13.3% at V3.


The prevalence of treatment adherence changes over time. Indirect methods (dose/pill count and self-reported) can be useful to detect non-adherence in COPD patients. The combination of MGT and BT is the best approach to test self-reported adherence.

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