Nurse-led interventions to enhance adherence to chronic medication: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;69(4):761-70. doi: 10.1007/s00228-012-1419-y. Epub 2012 Oct 9.


Purpose: Non-adherence to chronic medication remains an important problem with vast consequences and without solutions to date. Nurses are well positioned to provide adherence care, yet currently represent an underutilised force in improving adherence and outcomes. This review aims to synthesise the effect of nurse-led interventions on adherence to chronic medication.

Methods: Using Review Manager software, a meta-analysis was conducted. The search term medication adherence was combined with random* and nurse in PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge. Retrieved articles' reference lists were hand searched. Included were randomised controlled trials on nurse-led interventions, aiming to improve chronic medication adherence. Articles were to be in English and published from 2006 to 2011. Quality was assessed using an adapted version of the CONSORT tool.

Results: Ten studies met the selection criteria, seven of which were on HIV-positive patients. Their quality was acceptable to high. Counselling was the intervention most frequently assessed, mostly given face-to-face, but also in groups and via electronic messages. All interventions enhanced adherence. Of the five studies reporting adherence as mean percentage of adherence, pooled mean differences were +5.39 (1.70-9.07) (short term) and +9.49 (4.68-14.30) (long term), favouring the intervention groups. Of the studies reporting adherence dichotomously, odd's ratios were 1.55 (1.04-2.29) (short term) and 1.87 (1.35-2.61) (long term). The longer counselling was effectuated, the better the results.

Conclusions: Counselling appears to be an effective approach that nurses can use to supplement other methods, building a multifaceted strategy to enhance adherence. Tackling non-adherence seems to demand continuous efforts and follow-up.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease* / drug therapy
  • Chronic Disease* / nursing
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence* / statistics & numerical data
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Patient Education as Topic / organization & administration
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / nursing
  • Time Factors