Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Research to Improve Medication Adherence: A Systematic Review

Patient Prefer Adherence. 2021 Jul 26:15:1671-1677. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S314135. eCollection 2021.


People with disabilities have high rates of chronic health conditions and often require complex medication regimens to manage their health. Approximately 20-50% of people with disabilities fail to take their medication as prescribed. It is unclear, however, to what extent the literature describes the effectiveness of medication adherence interventions for people with disabilities. In this review, the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the 182 studies included in the Cochrane Review on Interventions for Enhancing Medication Adherence were evaluated for their inclusion of people with disabilities. Of the studies, 1% excluded persons for hearing impairment, 3% for motor impairment, 7% for visual impairment, and 32% for cognitive impairment. Most studies (65%) did not exclude persons based on specific impairment. Medication event monitoring systems were used in 21% of studies, and investigators excluded people unable to use this device in 5% of studies. Caregiver assistance was an exclusion criteria in 4% of studies. Additional barriers like the ability of investigators to exclude persons based on their judgement were found. These barriers exist in addition to the known barriers affecting persons with disabilities, such as accessibility of research facilities and access to transportation. These data suggest that people with disabilities are systemically excluded from the medication adherence intervention literature. Subsequently, it cannot be assumed that current adherence interventions are effective for people with disabilities. More research is needed to understand how to address medication adherence for people with disabilities.

Keywords: clinical trials as a topic; cultural diversity; disabled persons; health services for persons with disabilities; medication adherence.

Publication types

  • Review