Exploring patient experiences coping with using multiple medications: a qualitative interview study


Lauffenburger JC, Haff N, McDonnell ME, Solomon DH, Antman EM, Glynn RJ, Choudhry NK. Exploring patient experiences coping with using multiple medications: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open 2021;11(11):e046860.

Date Published:

Nov 22


OBJECTIVE: Long-term adherence to evidence-based medications in cardiometabolic diseases remains poor, despite extensive efforts to develop and test interventions and deploy clinician performance incentives. The limited success of interventions may be due to ignored factors such as patients' experience of medication-taking. Despite being potentially addressable by clinicians, these factors have not been sufficiently explored, which is particularly important as patients use increasing numbers of medications. The aim is to explore patient perspectives on medication-taking, medication properties that are barriers to adherence, and coping strategies for their medication regimen. DESIGN: Individual, in-person, semistructured qualitative interviews. SETTING: Urban healthcare system. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-six adults taking ≥2 oral medications for diabetes, hypertension or hyperlipidaemia with non-adherence. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. Data were analysed using developed codes to generate themes. Representative quotations were selected to illustrate themes. RESULTS: Participants' mean age was 55 years, 46% were female and 39% were non-white. Six key themes were identified: (1) medication-taking viewed as a highly inconvenient action (that patients struggle to remember to do); (2) negative implications because of inconvenience or illness perceptions; (3) actual medication regimens can deviate substantially from prescribed regimens; (4) certain medication properties (especially size and similar appearance with others) may contribute to adherence deviations; (5) development of numerous coping strategies to overcome barriers and (6) suggestions to make medication-taking easier (including reducing drug costs, simplifying regimen or dosing frequency and creating more palatable medications). CONCLUSION: Patients with poor adherence often find taking prescription medications to be undesirable and take them differently than prescribed in part due to properties of the medications themselves and coping strategies they have developed to overcome medication-taking challenges. Interventions that reduce the inconvenience of medication use and tailor medications to individual needs may be a welcome development.


2044-6055Lauffenburger, Julie COrcid: 0000-0002-4940-4140Haff, NancyMcDonnell, Marie ESolomon, Daniel HOrcid: 0000-0001-8202-5428Antman, Elliott MGlynn, Robert JChoudhry, Niteesh KJournal ArticleEngland2021/11/24BMJ Open. 2021 Nov 22;11(11):e046860. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046860.

Last updated on 11/24/2021