Noncompliance and treatment failure in children with asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996 Dec;98(6 Pt 1):1051-7. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(96)80190-4.


Background: Accurate and reliable information about children's use of inhaled medications is needed because of the growing reliance on these drugs in the treatment of asthma and the excessive morbidity and mortality attributable to this disease.

Objective: This study was designed to evaluate the adherence of children with asthma to regimens of inhaled corticosteroids and beta-agonists.

Methods: Data collected electronically by metered-dose inhaler monitors were compared with data recorded by patients on traditional diary cards. A volunteer sample of 24 children, between 8 and 12 years old, who had asthma for which they were receiving both inhaled corticosteroids and beta-agonists, participated over a 13-week period. Each child was accompanied by a parent to all study visits. The main outcome measures were the use of medication as reported by diary card entries and recorded by electronic monitoring and disease exacerbation, as indicated by requirement for oral corticosteroids.

Results: The median use of inhaled corticosteroids reported by patients on their diaries was 95.4%, whereas the median actual use was 58.4%. More than 90% of patients exaggerated their use of inhaled steroids, and diary entries of even the least compliant subjects reflected a high level of adherence. The children who experienced exacerbation of disease sufficient to require a burst of oral corticosteroids differed markedly from the others in their adherence to prescribed therapy as recorded by the electronic monitors. The median compliance with inhaled corticosteroids was 13.7% for those who experienced exacerbations and 68.2% for those who did not.

Conclusions: Electronic monitoring demonstrated much lower adherence to prescribed therapy than was reported by patients on diary cards. Low rates of compliance with prescribed inhaled corticosteroids were associated with exacerbation of disease. Poor control of asthma should alert the physician to the possibility of noncompliance.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Refusal / statistics & numerical data*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists