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Primary nonadherence to chronic disease medications: a meta-analysis

Authors Lemstra M, Nwankwo CK, Bird Y, Moraros J

Received 30 December 2017

Accepted for publication 10 March 2018

Published 7 May 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 721—731


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Mark Lemstra,1 Chijioke Nwankwo,2 Yelena Bird,2 John Moraros2

1Alliance Health Medical Clinics, Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; 2School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Medication nonadherence is a global problem that requires urgent attention. Primary nonadherence occurs when a patient consults with a medical doctor, receives a referral for medical therapy but never fills the first dispensation for the prescription medication. Nonadherence to chronic disease medications costs the USA ~$290 billion (USD) every year in avoidable health care costs. In Canada, it is estimated that 5.4% of all hospitalizations are due to medication nonadherence.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to quantify the extent of primary nonadherence for four of the most common chronic disease medications. The second objective was to identify factors associated with primary nonadherence to chronic disease medications.
Materials and methods: We conducted an extensive systematic literature review of eight databases with a wide range of keywords. We identified relevant articles for primary nonadherence to antihypertensives, lipid-lowering agents, hypoglycemics, and antidepressants. After further screening and assessment of methodologic quality, relevant data were extracted and analyzed using a random-effects model.
Results: Twenty-four articles were included for our meta-analysis after full review and assessment for risk of bias. The pooled primary nonadherence rate for the four chronic disease medications was 14.6% (95% CI: 13.1%–16.2%). Primary medication nonadherence was higher for lipid-lowering medications among the four chronic disease medications assessed (20.8%; 95% CI: 16.0%–25.6%). The rates in North America (17.0%; 95% CI: 14.4%–19.5%) were twice those from Europe (8.5%; 95% CI: 7.1%–9.9%). The absence of social support (20%; 95% CI: 14.4%–26.6%) was the most common sociodemographic variable associated with chronic disease medication primary nonadherence.
Conclusion: Evidence suggests that a considerable percentage of patients do not initially fill their medications for treatable chronic diseases or conditions. This represents a major health care problem that can be successfully addressed. Efforts should be directed toward proper medication counseling, patient social support, and clinical follow-up, especially when the indications for the prescribed medication aim to provide primary prevention.

Keywords: primary nonadherence, chronic disease medication, initial nonadherence, prescribed medications, predictors of primary nonadherence

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