- About medication adherence
What exactly do compliance and adherence mean?
Compliance suggests a one-way relationship, whereby the doctor states the medical regimen and the patient is expected to comply.1 On the other hand, adherence is the “active, voluntary, and collaborative involvement of the patient in a mutually acceptable course of behaviour to produce a therapeutic result”. Here, the patient is a partner in healthcare decision making, and both patient and healthcare professional agree on treatment goals and the medical regimen.1,2
Adherence to therapy is very important for the management of long-term diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.3 The World Health Organization defines adherence to long-term therapy as “the extent to which a person’s behaviour—taking medication, following a diet, and/or executing lifestyle changes, corresponds with agreed recommendations from a healthcare provider”.4
Medication adherence can be measured using direct and indirect methods2:
Examples of direct methods: Healthcare worker watching the patient take every dose of the medication, measurement of medication levels in the blood.
Examples of indirect methods: Surveys, diaries, patient self-report, pharmacy refill rates, pill counting, monitoring for clinical response, and electronic data.
Prevalence of adherence to medications
How are long-term diseases related to adherence and compliance?
Poor adherence to recognized standards of care is the main reason behind the development of diabetes complications.4 The biggest barrier to effective insulin therapy is compliance.7
Similarly, the main cause of failure to control high blood pressure (BP) is poor adherence. It is estimated that poor adherence contributes to poor BP control in over two-thirds of people with high BP.4 Medication non-compliance can result in BP not reaching target despite being prescribed up to three BP medications.8
Rates of uncontrolled high BP, diabetes and high cholesterol in Malaysia
- High BP: Only 35% of patients achieved BP control while on treatment.8
- Diabetes: In government health clinics, only 23.8% of patients with type 2 diabetes achieved the national HbA1c target.9
- High cholesterol: Among patients with type 2 diabetes, only 28.5% and 37.8% achieved target total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol, respectively.9
Why don’t people take their medications as directed?
- Gould E, Mitty E. Geriatr Nurs 2010;31:290–298.
- Ho PM, et al. Circulation 2009;119:3028–3035.
- PhRMA. Improving prescription medicine adherence is key to better health care. Available at https://www.phrma.org/-/media/Project/PhRMA/PhRMA-Org/PhRMA-Org/PDF/Patient_Savings_Programs_FINAL_062413.pdf. Accessed 8 October, 2019.
- World Health Organizaion. Adherence to long-term therapies: Evidence for action [Updated 2003]. Available at http://www.who.int/chp/knowledge/publications/adherence_full_report.pdf. Accessed 19 September, 2019.
- Ramli A, et al. Patient prefer adherence 2012;6:613–622.
- Briesacher BA, et al. Pharmacotherapy 2008;28:437–443.
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. Clinical practice guidelines: Management of type 2 diabetes mellitus (5th Edition); 2015.
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. Clinical practice guidelines: Management of hypertension (4th Edition); 2013.
- Feisul I, Azmi S. National Diabetes Registry, 2009–2012. Putrajaya: Non-communicable disease section, Disease control division, Department of public health, Ministry of Health Malaysia; 2013.
- American Heart Assocation. Medication adherence–taking your meds as directed. Available at http://www.heart.org/heartorg/conditions/more/consumerhealthcare/medication-adherence---taking-your-meds-as-directed_ucm_453329_article.jsp#.VuJnIPyUfHQ. Accessed 19 September, 2019.
- National Stroke Association. Medication adherence and compliance. Available at https://www.stroke.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/medication-information/medication-adherence-taking-your-meds-as-directed. Accessed 8 October, 2019.