Interventions to improve medication compliance in older patients living in the community: a systematic review of the literature

Drugs Aging. 2003;20(3):229-40. doi: 10.2165/00002512-200320030-00006.


Noncompliance affects all age groups, but older patients have specific barriers against effective medication use and can be more vulnerable to the incorrect use of medication. Some age-related barriers are vision loss and cognitive impairment. In people aged 60 years or older, noncompliance with medication regimens varies from 26-59%. In this article we review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on interventions aimed to improve compliance with medication regimens in older patients living in the community. It is known from other reviews that multifaceted interventions, a combination of interventions, are more often effective than single-focus interventions, probably because these address a wider range of barriers. Also, an individual approach with specifically tailored interventions is effective at improving compliance. In this review the following two hypotheses are evaluated: i) multifaceted interventions improve compliance more successfully than single interventions; and ii) interventions that are tailored to patients improve compliance more successfully than generalised interventions. A systematic literature search in four databases produced 14 suitable RCTs with 23 interventions that we categorised as single or multifaceted, and generalised or tailored. Differences in medication compliance between the intervention group and the control group were in less than half of the comparisons in favour of the intervention group. Telephone-linked reminder systems achieved the most striking effect, looking at differences between the intervention and control group, and deserve further attention. Overall, multifaceted interventions and tailored interventions seemed to result more often in differences in compliance rates in older adults in favour of the intervention group compared with a control group than single and generalised interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged / physiology*
  • Drug Therapy
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*