Exploring patients' reasons for discontinuance of heart medications

J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2009 Sep-Oct;24(5):371-9. doi: 10.1097/JCN.0b013e3181ae7b2a.


Background: Despite the importance of secondary prevention, nonadherence rates for patients with myocardial infarction (MI) range from 13% to 60% for prescribed, evidence-based medicines. Although rates and consequences of discontinuance vary for different medications, the existing literature provides little insight into reasons for discontinuance.

Objective: To address this gap, we explored clopidogrel and cholesterol-lowering therapy (CLT) discontinuance after an MI to understand patients' reasons for stopping these 2 medications.

Methods: In this qualitative descriptive study, 2 groups of patients who stopped a heart medication-either clopidogrel or CLT-were recruited from a prospective MI registry. Patients who discontinued CLT (n = 29) or clopidogrel (n = 11) were interviewed within 18 months of hospitalization. Patients were recruited and interviewed until data saturation was achieved. The Health Belief Model was used as an organizing framework in analyzing and coding the narrative data. The codes were then summarized for each group and compared to identify similarities and differences in reasons for CLT and clopidogrel discontinuance.

Results and conclusions: The most common reason for CLT discontinuance was adverse effects that were painful and interfered with daily life. Less common reasons for discontinuance were prescription confusion, cost, mistrust in medicines/healthcare system, and preference for alternative therapies. Reasons for clopidogrel discontinuance were duration confusion, adverse effects, and cost. Although doctors stopped patients' clopidogrel in preparation for surgery, doctors conceded to discontinuance of CLT for patients who experienced adverse effects after trying 2 to 3 different CLTs. Patients who discontinued CLT were more likely to believe that they did not need the treatment than do patients who discontinued clopidogrel. Clinicians should be aware that reasons may vary across patients and medication class for prematurely stopping therapy; thus, proactive interventions should be targeted to address these differences. Identifying at-risk patients for targeted interventions to prevent premature cardiac medication discontinuation is vital.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / adverse effects
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / economics
  • Clopidogrel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / psychology*
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation*
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Myocardial Infarction / drug therapy*
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality
  • Myocardial Infarction / psychology*
  • Narration
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / economics
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ticlopidine / adverse effects
  • Ticlopidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Ticlopidine / economics
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Clopidogrel
  • Ticlopidine