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      COPD: understanding patients’ adherence to inhaled medications

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          Background and objective

          Adherence to inhaled medications by COPD patients is a challenging issue, but relatively understudied. The aim of this study is the characterization of adherence to inhaled medications by COPD patients, with a focus on patient-related determinants.


          Stable COPD outpatients ≥40 years of age from a respiratory unit and diagnosed according to the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease criteria were included in a cross-sectional study. The Measure of Treatment Adherence (MTA), the Beliefs about Medications Questionnaire (BMQ) and demographic, clinical, and COPD questionnaires were used. After completing these questionnaires, semi-structured interviews were carried out and participants were encouraged to justify their opinions and behaviors. Field notes were made during the interviews and each interview was analyzed before the next one. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the variables were then performed.


          A total of 300 out of 319 participants (mean age =67.7 years, 78.1% males) completed the MTA questionnaire. Of these, 31.3% were considered poorly adherent and 16.7% as non-adherent to the inhaled therapy. A statistically significant negative association was found between adherence and current smoking status ( P=0.044), and between adherence and FEV 1% ( P=0.000). The mean BMQ Necessity score was higher in adherent patients ( P=0.000), but the the mean Concern score was similar for both ( P=0.877). We found nine patterns of poor-adherence, six reasons given for poor-adherence behaviors, five reasons for good-adherence behaviors and three patient-related domains on adherence to medications.


          Adherence is related to need perception and to the functional severity of the disease. A non-adherent patient is usually a current smoker with lower degree of airflow limitation and lower perception of medication necessity. New information obtained was related to the patterns and reasons for different adherence behaviors, which are based on three major groups of patient related-determinants: health-related experiences, health-related behaviors and health-related beliefs.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Adherence to inhaled therapies, health outcomes and costs in patients with asthma and COPD.

          Suboptimal adherence to pharmacological treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has adverse effects on disease control and treatment costs. The reasons behind non-adherence revolve around patient knowledge/education, inhaler device convenience and satisfaction, age, adverse effects and medication costs. Age is of particular concern given the increasing prevalence of asthma in the young and increased rates of non-adherence in adolescents compared with children and adults. The correlation between adherence to inhaled pharmacological therapies for asthma and COPD and clinical efficacy is positive, with improved symptom control and lung function shown in most studies of adults, adolescents and children. Satisfaction with inhaler devices is also positively correlated with improved adherence and clinical outcomes, and reduced costs. Reductions in healthcare utilisation are consistently observed with good adherence; however, costs associated with general healthcare and lost productivity tend to be offset only in more adherent patients with severe disease, versus those with milder forms of asthma or COPD. Non-adherence is associated with higher healthcare utilisation and costs, and reductions in health-related quality of life, and remains problematic on an individual, societal and economic level. Further development of measures to improve adherence is needed to fully address these issues. Copyright © 2013. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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            Medication adherence issues in patients treated for COPD

            Although medical treatment of COPD has advanced, nonadherence to medication regimens poses a significant barrier to optimal management. Underuse, overuse, and improper use continue to be the most common causes of poor adherence to therapy. An average of 40%–60% of patients with COPD adheres to the prescribed regimen and only 1 out of 10 patients with a metered dose inhaler performs all essential steps correctly. Adherence to therapy is multifactorial and involves both the patient and the primary care provider. The effect of patient instruction on inhaler adherence and rescue medication utilization in patients with COPD does not seem to parallel the good results reported in patients with asthma. While use of a combined inhaler may facilitate adherence to medications and improve efficacy, pharmacoeconomic factors may influence patient’s selection of both the device and the regimen. Patient’s health beliefs, experiences, and behaviors play a significant role in adherence to pharmacological therapy. This manuscript reviews important aspects associated with medication adherence in patients with COPD and identifies some predictors of poor adherence.
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              Beliefs about medications: a questionnaire survey of people with rheumatoid arthritis.

               R Neame,  Max Hammond (2005)
              To investigate beliefs about medications held by people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), what factors are related to these specific medication beliefs, and whether these beliefs influence adherence. The design was a cross-sectional postal questionnaire survey of people with RA. The Beliefs about Medicines Questionnaire was used to assess beliefs about the necessity of medication and concerns about it. Questionnaires were mailed to 600 out-patients with RA. The response rate was 57.3%. Most (74.3%) respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their arthritis medications are necessary for their health. However, 47.4% were concerned about potential adverse consequences. The overall necessity score (mean 19.2, s.d. 3.13) was higher than the concerns score (mean 15.84, s.d. 3.53; P<0.001). Greater disability was associated with higher necessity scores (r = 0.36; P<0.001). Greater helplessness correlated with higher concerns scores (r = 0.49; P<0.001). There was no association between RA knowledge and beliefs about medications (necessity scale, r = 0.02, P = 0.66; concerns scale, r=-0.08, P = 0.14). Concerns scores for non-adherent participants (mean 17.88, s.d. 3.29) were higher than for the adherent group (mean 15.64, s.d. 3.51; P = 0.002). Most people with RA have positive beliefs about the necessity of their medication. However, levels of concern are high and associate with helplessness and non-adherence. The Beliefs about Medicines Questionnaire may identify people at risk of poor adherence and provide a focus for patients to discuss their beliefs, providing opportunities to improve adherence.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                06 September 2018
                : 13
                : 2767-2773
                [1 ]Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Medicine, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, duartearaujodr@
                [2 ]ICVS/3B’s, PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga, Portugal, duartearaujodr@
                [3 ]Respiratory Department, H. Sª Oliveira, Guimarães, Portugal, duartearaujodr@
                [4 ]Department of Pneumology, Centro Hospitalar de S. João, Porto, Portugal
                [5 ]Faculty of Medicine (FMUP), University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
                [6 ]Horizonte Family Health Unit, Matosinhos, Portugal
                Author notes
                Correspondence: António Duarte-de-Araújo, Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Medicine, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, Tel +351 96 554 2786, Email duartearaujodr@
                © 2018 Duarte-de-Araújo et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research

                Respiratory medicine

                beliefs, adherence behaviors, inhaled medications, adherence, copd


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