Definitions, variants, and causes of nonadherence with medication: a challenge for tailored interventions

Patient Prefer Adherence. 2013 Jul 10;7:675-82. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S29549. Print 2013.


Background: Nonadherence with medication is a complex and multidimensional health care problem. The causes may be related to the patient, treatment, and/or health care provider. As a consequence, substantial numbers of patients do not benefit optimally from pharmacotherapy, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality as well as increased societal costs. Several interventions may contribute to improved adherence. However, most interventions have only a modest effect. Thus, despite the many efforts made, there has been little progress made as yet in tackling the problem of nonadherence.

Methods: This paper summarizes the definitions and taxonomy of adherence with medication, as well as types and causes of nonadherence. In addition, interventions aimed at improvement of adherence are discussed.

Conclusion: There is not just one solution for the nonadherence problem that fits all patients. Most interventions to improve adherence are aimed at all patients regardless of whether they are adherent or not. Recently, a number of tailored interventions have been described in the literature. Modern techniques are useful. Electronic pill boxes combined with Short Message Service reminders are specifically designed to improve unintentional adherence and have resulted in an increase in refill adherence in diabetic patients with suboptimal adherence. Tailored Internet interventions are a possibility for influencing patient drug-taking behavior and show promising results. Tailored counseling interventions targeted at the underlying causes of nonadherence seem an attractive method for supporting patients with their use of drugs. However, despite the plausible theoretical framework, data on long-term health effects of the various interventions are not available. To improve adherence effectively, there is a need for a tailored approach based on the type and cause of nonadherence and the specific needs of the patient.

Keywords: adherence; compliance; concordance; tailored intervention.