Improving medication adherence in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review

Respir Res. 2013 Oct 20;14(1):109. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-14-109.


Adherence to medication among individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is suboptimal and has negative impacts on survival and health care costs. No systematic review has examined the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve medication adherence. Electronic databases Medline and Cochrane were searched using a combination of MeSH and keywords. Eligible studies were interventions with a primary or secondary aim to improve medication adherence among individuals with COPD published in English. Included studies were assessed for methodological quality using the Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) criteria. Of the 1,186 papers identified, seven studies met inclusion criteria. Methodological quality of the studies was variable. Five studies identified effective interventions. Strategies included: brief counselling; monitoring and feedback about inhaler use through electronic medication delivery devices; and multi-component interventions consisting of self-management and care co-ordination delivered by pharmacists and primary care teams. Further research is needed to establish the most effective and cost effective interventions. Special attention should be given to increasing patient sample size and using a common measure of adherence to overcome methodological limitations. Interventions that involve caregivers and target the healthcare provider as well as the patient should be further explored.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Self Care
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents