Send to

Choose Destination
Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014 Aug 22;10:1543-69. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S65721. eCollection 2014.

Adherence, persistence, and medication discontinuation in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder - a systematic literature review.

Author information

Global Health Economics, Outcomes Research and Epidemiology, Shire, Wayne, PA, USA.
Health Economics and Outcomes Research, Analysis Group, Inc., Boston, MA, USA.
Institute of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Social Pediatrics, Berlin, Germany ; Department of Psychology and Mental Health, H:G University of Health and Sport, Technology and Arts, Berlin, Germany.


Untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can lead to substantial adverse social, economic, and emotional outcomes for patients. The effectiveness of current pharmacologic treatments is often reduced, due to low treatment adherence and medication discontinuation. This current systematic literature review analyzes the current state of knowledge surrounding ADHD medication discontinuation, focusing on: 1) the extent of patient persistence; 2) adherence; and 3) the underlying reasons for patients' treatment discontinuation and how discontinuation rates and reasons vary across patient subgroups. We selected 91 original studies (67 with persistence/discontinuation results, 26 with adherence results, and 41 with reasons for discontinuation, switching, or nonadherence) and 36 expert opinion reviews on ADHD medication discontinuation, published from 1990 to 2013. Treatment persistence on stimulants, measured by treatment duration during the 12-month follow-up periods, averaged 136 days for children and adolescents and 230 days for adults. Owing to substantial study heterogeneity, comparisons across age or medication type subgroups were generally inconclusive; however, long-acting formulations and amphetamines were associated with longer treatment duration than short-acting formulations and methylphenidates. The medication possession ratio, used to measure adherence, was <0.7 for all age groups and medication classes during a 12-month period. Adverse effects were the most commonly cited reason for discontinuation in all studies. Original research studies reported the lack of symptom control as a common discontinuation reason, followed by dosing inconvenience, social stigma associated with ADHD medication, and the patient's attitude. In summary, although there was a lack of consistency in the measurement of adherence and persistence, these findings indicate that drug adherence and persistence are generally poor among patients with ADHD. Clinicians may be able to help improve adherence and persistence to ADHD treatment by educating caregivers and patients on treatment goals, administering long-acting medications, and following-up with patients to verify if medication is still effective and well-tolerated.


ADHD medication; adherence; literature review; persistence; treatment discontinuation

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Dove Medical Press Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center