Adherence and discontinuation of adjuvant hormonal therapy in breast cancer patients: a population-based study

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 May;133(1):367-73. doi: 10.1007/s10549-012-1961-4.


Adherence to long-term pharmacological treatment for chronic conditions is often less than optimal. Till date, a limited number of population-based studies have assessed adherence to adjuvant hormonal therapy in breast cancer, a therapy with proven benefits in terms of reductions of recurrence and mortality. We aimed to examine rates of adherence and early discontinuation in Sweden where prescribed medications are subsidized for all residents and made available at reduced out-of-pocket costs. Individual-level data were obtained from Regional Clinical Quality Breast Cancer Registers, the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, and several other population-based registers. Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyze factors associated with adherence to prescribed medication for a period of 3 years. Between January 1 and December 31, 2005, 1,741 patients in central Sweden were identified with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, and at least one prescription dispensation of either tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor. Of these women, 1,193 (69%) were fully adherent to therapy for 3 years (medication possession ratio of 80% or higher and a maximum of 180 days between refills). During the 3-year follow-up, 215 women (12%) had prematurely discontinued therapy. Adherence was positively associated with younger age, large tumor size, being married, and being born in the Nordic countries, while no clear association was observed with education or income. During the 3 years of follow-up, 31% of women were non-adherent to therapy. Further efforts must be undertaken to promote adherence over the entire recommended treatment period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use*
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Maintenance Chemotherapy
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / prevention & control*
  • Sweden
  • Tamoxifen / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Tamoxifen