Background: Non-adherence to therapy is a widespread problem, with typical adherence rates for prescribed medications being approximately 50%. An estimated 20% to 50% of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) do not take their medications as prescribed, resulting in higher disease-recurrence rates and potentially higher health care costs.
Objective: To characterize the problem of non-adherence in UC, to review the many factors affecting compliance and persistence in this population, and to discuss practical strategies to improve adherence in these patients.
Summary: Adherence to and persistence with medication are complex and multifactorial behaviors. Factors shown to affect adherence in UC patients include disease extent and duration, cost of medications, fear of adverse effects, individual psychosocial variables, and the patient-physician relationship. In contrast, recent data do not support an important role for treatment-related factors such as daily dose, regimen, and formulation in influencing adherence in this population, particularly with longer duration of use. Strategies to improve adherence should involve the patient, the provider, and the health care delivery system. For UC patients, knowledge and discussion of the rationale for supporting persistence, such as recent data regarding agents that have a potential chemoprotective benefit, may encourage persistence, even during periods of quiescence. The patient-physician relationship is critical in encouraging adherence, particularly with respect to education, open communication, and agreement regarding the value of the assigned treatment. Health care delivery systems can improve adherence by encouraging the participation of multidisciplinary teams, providing reporting and tracking systems, and eliminating financial barriers where possible.