Objective: Although nonadherence with the antipsychotic medication regimen is a common barrier to the effective treatment for schizophrenia, knowledge is limited about how to improve medication adherence. This systematic literature review examined psychosocial interventions for improving medication adherence, focusing on promising initiatives, reasonable standards for conducting research in this area, and implications for clinical practice.
Method: Studies were identified by computerized searches of MEDLINE and PsychLIT for the years between 1980 and 2000 and by manual searches of relevant bibliographies and conference proceedings. Key articles were summarized.
Results: Thirteen (33%) of 39 identified studies reported significant intervention effects. Although interventions and family therapy programs relying on psychoeducation were common in clinical practice, they were typically ineffective. Concrete problem solving or motivational techniques were common features of successful programs. Interventions targeted specifically to problems of nonadherence were more likely to be effective (55%) than were more broadly based treatment interventions (26%). One-half (four of eight) of the successful interventions not specifically focused on nonadherence involved an array of supportive and rehabilitative community-based services.
Conclusions: Psychoeducational interventions without accompanying behavioral components and supportive services are not likely to be effective in improving medication adherence in schizophrenia. Models of community care such as assertive community treatment and interventions based on principles of motivational interviewing are promising. Providing patients with concrete instructions and problem-solving strategies, such as reminders, self-monitoring tools, cues, and reinforcements, is useful. Problems in adherence are recurring, and booster sessions are needed to reinforce and consolidate gains.