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Adherence, persistence, and medication discontinuation in patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – a systematic literature review

Authors Gajria K, Lu M, Sikirica V, Greven P, Zhong Y, Qin P, Xie J

Received 8 April 2014

Accepted for publication 17 June 2014

Published 22 August 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 1543—1569


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Kavita Gajria,1 Mei Lu,2 Vanja Sikirica,1 Peter Greven,3,4 Yichen Zhong,2 Paige Qin,2 Jipan Xie2

1Global Health Economics, Outcomes Research and Epidemiology, Shire, Wayne, PA, USA; 2Health Economics and Outcomes Research, Analysis Group, Inc., Boston, MA, USA; 3Institute of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Social Pediatrics, Berlin, Germany; 4Department of Psychology and Mental Health, H:G University of Health and Sport, Technology and Arts, Berlin, Germany

Abstract: Untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can lead to substantial adverse social, economic, and emotional outcomes for patients. The effectiveness of current pharmacologic treatments is often reduced, due to low treatment adherence and medication discontinuation. This current systematic literature review analyzes the current state of knowledge surrounding ADHD medication discontinuation, focusing on: 1) the extent of patient persistence; 2) adherence; and 3) the underlying reasons for patients’ treatment discontinuation and how discontinuation rates and reasons vary across patient subgroups. We selected 91 original studies (67 with persistence/discontinuation results, 26 with adherence results, and 41 with reasons for discontinuation, switching, or nonadherence) and 36 expert opinion reviews on ADHD medication discontinuation, published from 1990 to 2013. Treatment persistence on stimulants, measured by treatment duration during the 12-month follow-up periods, averaged 136 days for children and adolescents and 230 days for adults. Owing to substantial study heterogeneity, comparisons across age or medication type subgroups were generally inconclusive; however, long-acting formulations and amphetamines were associated with longer treatment duration than short-acting formulations and methylphenidates. The medication possession ratio, used to measure adherence, was <0.7 for all age groups and medication classes during a 12-month period. Adverse effects were the most commonly cited reason for discontinuation in all studies. Original research studies reported the lack of symptom control as a common discontinuation reason, followed by dosing inconvenience, social stigma associated with ADHD medication, and the patient’s attitude. In summary, although there was a lack of consistency in the measurement of adherence and persistence, these findings indicate that drug adherence and persistence are generally poor among patients with ADHD. Clinicians may be able to help improve adherence and persistence to ADHD treatment by educating caregivers and patients on treatment goals, administering long-acting medications, and following-up with patients to verify if medication is still effective and well-tolerated.

Keywords: treatment discontinuation, adherence, persistence, ADHD medication, literature review

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