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      Patient Adherence to Tuberculosis Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Research

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.

          Abstract

          Background

          Tuberculosis (TB) is a major contributor to the global burden of disease and has received considerable attention in recent years, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where it is closely associated with HIV/AIDS. Poor adherence to treatment is common despite various interventions aimed at improving treatment completion. Lack of a comprehensive and holistic understanding of barriers to and facilitators of, treatment adherence is currently a major obstacle to finding effective solutions. The aim of this systematic review of qualitative studies was to understand the factors considered important by patients, caregivers and health care providers in contributing to TB medication adherence.

          Methods and Findings

          We searched 19 electronic databases (1966–February 2005) for qualitative studies on patients', caregivers', or health care providers' perceptions of adherence to preventive or curative TB treatment with the free text terms “Tuberculosis AND (adherence OR compliance OR concordance)”. We supplemented our search with citation searches and by consulting experts. For included studies, study quality was assessed using a predetermined checklist and data were extracted independently onto a standard form. We then followed Noblit and Hare's method of meta-ethnography to synthesize the findings, using both reciprocal translation and line-of-argument synthesis. We screened 7,814 citations and selected 44 articles that met the prespecified inclusion criteria. The synthesis offers an overview of qualitative evidence derived from these multiple international studies. We identified eight major themes across the studies: organisation of treatment and care; interpretations of illness and wellness; the financial burden of treatment; knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about treatment; law and immigration; personal characteristics and adherence behaviour; side effects; and family, community, and household support. Our interpretation of the themes across all studies produced a line-of-argument synthesis describing how four major factors interact to affect adherence to TB treatment: structural factors, including poverty and gender discrimination; the social context; health service factors; and personal factors. The findings of this study are limited by the quality and foci of the included studies.

          Conclusions

          Adherence to the long course of TB treatment is a complex, dynamic phenomenon with a wide range of factors impacting on treatment-taking behaviour. Patients' adherence to their medication regimens was influenced by the interaction of a number of these factors. The findings of our review could help inform the development of patient-centred interventions and of interventions to address structural barriers to treatment adherence.

          Abstract

          From a systematic review of qualitative research, Munro and coauthors found that a range of interacting factors can lead to patients deciding not to complete their course of tuberculosis treatment.

          Editors' Summary

          Background.

          Every year nearly nine million people develop tuberculosis—a contagious infection, usually of the lungs—and about two million people die from the disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacteria that are spread in airborne droplets when people with active tuberculosis sneeze or cough. Tuberculosis can be cured by taking several strong antibiotics daily for at least six months but many patients fail to complete this treatment because the drugs have unpleasant side-effects and the treatment is complicated. In addition, people often feel better soon after starting treatment so they stop taking their tablets before all the bacteria in their body are dead. Poor treatment adherence (poor compliance) means that people remain infectious for longer and are more likely to relapse and die. It also contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis. To help people complete their treatment, the World Health Organization recommends a strategy known as DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course). As part of this strategy, a health worker or a tuberculosis treatment supporter—a person nominated by the health worker and the patient—watches the patient take his/her antibiotics.

          Why Was This Study Done?

          Although DOTS has contributed to improved tuberculosis control, better patient compliance is needed to halt the global tuberculosis epidemic. Treatment adherence is a complex behavioral issue and improving treatment outcomes for tuberculosis (and for other diseases) requires a full understanding of the factors that prevent people taking medicines correctly and those that help them complete their treatment. In this study, the researchers have done a systematic review (a study in which the medical literature is surveyed and appraised using defined methods to reach a consensus view on a specific question) of qualitative studies that asked patients, carers, and health workers which factors contributed to adherence to tuberculosis treatment. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data so, for example, a qualitative study on tuberculosis treatment might ask people how the treatment made them feel whereas a quantitative study might count bacteria in patient samples.

          What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

          The researchers searched electronic databases and reference lists for qualitative studies on adherence to tuberculosis treatments and also consulted experts on tuberculosis treatment. They carefully read the 44 published papers that met their predefined inclusion criteria and then used a method called “meta-ethnography” to compare the factors (themes) associated with good or bad adherence in the different studies and to synthesize (reach) a consensus view of which factors influence adherence to tuberculosis treatment. The researchers identified eight major factors associated with adherence to treatment. These included: health service factors such as the organization of treatment and care; social context (family, community and household influences); and the financial burden of treatment. Finally, the researchers interpreted the themes that emerged from the studies to build a simple model that proposes that adherence to tuberculosis treatment is influenced by four interacting sets of factors—structural factors (including poverty and gender discrimination), social context factors, health service factors, and personal factors (including attitudes towards treatment and illness).

          What Do These Findings Mean?

          The findings of this systematic review of qualitative research on patient adherence to tuberculosis treatment are inevitably limited by the quality and scope of the original research. Consequently, further studies into patients' understanding of tuberculosis and its treatment are needed. Nevertheless, the findings and the model proposed by the researchers indicate that patients often take their tuberculosis medications under very difficult conditions and that they cannot control many of the factors that prevent them taking their drugs. So, although current efforts to improve adherence to tuberculosis treatments emphasize instilling a willingness to take their medications into patients, this systematic review suggests that more must be done to address how factors such as poverty and gender affect treatment adherence and to tailor support systems to patients' needs. Most importantly, it indicates that future interventions should involve patients more in the decisions made about their treatment.

          Additional Information.

          Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040238.

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          Most cited references 85

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          Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines.

           K Malterud (2001)
          Qualitative research methods could help us to improve our understanding of medicine. Rather than thinking of qualitative and quantitative strategies as incompatible, they should be seen as complementary. Although procedures for textual interpretation differ from those of statistical analysis, because of the different type of data used and questions to be answered, the underlying principles are much the same. In this article I propose relevance, validity, and reflexivity as overall standards for qualitative inquiry. I will discuss the specific challenges in relation to reflexivity, transferability, and shared assumptions of interpretation, which are met by medical researchers who do this type of research, and I will propose guidelines for qualitative inquiry.
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            The growing burden of tuberculosis: global trends and interactions with the HIV epidemic.

            The increasing global burden of tuberculosis (TB) is linked to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We reviewed data from notifications of TB cases, cohort treatment outcomes, surveys of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, and HIV prevalence in patients with TB and other subgroups. Information was collated from published literature and databases held by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (UNAIDS), the US Census Bureau, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were an estimated 8.3 million (5th-95th centiles, 7.3-9.2 million) new TB cases in 2000 (137/100,000 population; range, 121/100,000-151/100,000). Tuberculosis incidence rates were highest in the WHO African Region (290/100,000 per year; range, 265/100,000-331/100,000), as was the annual rate of increase in the number of cases (6%). Nine percent (7%-12%) of all new TB cases in adults (aged 15-49 years) were attributable to HIV infection, but the proportion was much greater in the WHO African Region (31%) and some industrialized countries, notably the United States (26%). There were an estimated 1.8 million (5th-95th centiles, 1.6-2.2 million) deaths from TB, of which 12% (226 000) were attributable to HIV. Tuberculosis was the cause of 11% of all adult AIDS deaths. The prevalence of M tuberculosis-HIV coinfection in adults was 0.36% (11 million people). Coinfection prevalence rates equaled or exceeded 5% in 8 African countries. In South Africa alone there were 2 million coinfected adults. The HIV pandemic presents a massive challenge to global TB control. The prevention of HIV and TB, the extension of WHO DOTS programs, and a focused effort to control HIV-related TB in areas of high HIV prevalence are matters of great urgency.
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              Patients' beliefs about prescribed medicines and their role in adherence to treatment in chronic physical illness.

              The aim of this cross-sectional study was to quantify patients' personal beliefs about the necessity of their prescribed medication and their concerns about taking it and to assess relations between beliefs and reported adherence among 324 patients from four chronic illness groups (asthma, renal, cardiac, and oncology). The findings revealed considerable variation in reported adherence and beliefs about medicines within and between illness groups. Most patients (89%) believed that their prescribed medication was necessary for maintaining health. However, over a third had strong concerns about their medication based on beliefs about the dangers of dependence or long-term effects. Beliefs about medicines were related to reported adherence: higher necessity scores correlated with higher reported adherence (r=0.21, n=324, p<0.01) and higher concerns correlated with lower reported adherence (r=0.33, n=324, p<0.01). For 17% of the total sample, concerns scores exceeded necessity scores and these patients reported significantly lower adherence rates (t=-4.28, p<0.001). Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis showed that higher reported adherence rates were associated with higher necessity-concerns difference scores (beta=0.35, p<0.001), a diagnosis of asthma (beta= -0.31, p<0.001), a diagnosis of heart disease (beta=0.19, p<0.001), and age (beta=0.22, p<0.001). Gender, educational experience, or the number of prescribed medicines did not predict reported adherence. Medication beliefs were more powerful predictors of reported adherence than the clinical and sociodemographic factors, accounting for 19% of the explained variance in adherence. These data were consistent with the hypothesis that many patients engage in an implicit cost-benefit analysis in which beliefs about the necessity of their medication are weighed against concerns about the potential adverse effects of taking it and that these beliefs are related to medication adherence.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                PLoS Med
                pmed
                PLoS Medicine
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1549-1277
                1549-1676
                July 2007
                24 July 2007
                : 4
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ] South African Cochrane Centre, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
                [2 ] Primary Health Care Directorate, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
                [3 ] Health Systems Research Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
                [4 ] Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
                [5 ] International Health Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, United Kingdom
                [6 ] Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
                [7 ] Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services, Oslo, Norway
                [8 ] University of Stellenbosch, Faculty of Health Sciences, Cape Town, South Africa
                Michigan State University, United States of America
                Author notes
                * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: salla.munro@ 123456mrc.ac.za
                Article
                06-PLME-RA-0937R2 plme-04-07-08
                10.1371/journal.pmed.0040238
                1925126
                17676945
                Copyright: © 2007 Munro et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 16
                Categories
                Research Article
                Infectious Diseases
                Non-Clinical Medicine
                Public Health and Epidemiology
                Respiratory Medicine
                Public Health
                Epidemiology
                Tuberculosis
                Patients
                Respiratory Medicine
                Custom metadata
                Munro SA, Lewin SA, Smith H, Engel ME, Fretheim A, et al. (2007) Patient adherence to tuberculosis treatment: A systematic review of qualitative research. PLoS Med 4(7): e238. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040238

                Medicine

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