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Interventions to Improve Antipsychotic Medication Adherence: Review of Recent Literature

Dolder, Christian R. PharmD*†; Lacro, Jonathan P. PharmD*†; Leckband, Susan RPh; Jeste, Dilip V. MD*‡

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: August 2003 - Volume 23 - Issue 4 - p 389-399
doi: 10.1097/
Review Article

Antipsychotic nonadherence is an important barrier to the successful treatment of schizophrenia and can lead to clinical and economic burdens. Interventions capable of significantly improving medication adherence in patients with schizophrenia would be beneficial in maximizing treatment outcomes with antipsychotics. This article reviews recent literature reporting interventions designed to improve antipsychotic adherence in patients with schizophrenia. We searched the Medline, Healthstar, and PsycInfo electronic databases for articles published since 1980 on interventions to improve medication adherence in schizophrenia. Twenty-one studies met our selection criteria. In this review, educational, behavioral, affective, or a combination of these approaches to improve adherence were exammed. A total of 23 interventions were tested, as 2 studies investigated more than 1 intervention. While study design and adherence measures varied across the trials reviewed, medication adherence was noted to moderately improve with 15 of the 23 interventions tested. Interventions of a purely educational nature were the least successful at improving antipsychotic adherence. The greatest improvement in adherence was seen with interventions employing combinations of educational, behavioral, and affective strategies with which improvements in adherence were noted in 8 out of 12 studies, with additional secondary gains such as: reduced relapse, decreased hospitalization, decreased psychopathology, improved social function, gains in medication knowledge, and improved insight into the need for treatment. Longer interventions and an alliance with therapists also appeared important for successful outcomes. The continuing development and study of successful interventions to improve medication adherence are necessary to maximize the usefulness of pharmacologic treatment of schizophrenia.

*Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA;

†Pharmacy Service, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA;

‡Psychiatry Service, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego, CA.

Received January 30, 2002; accepted after revision October 31, 2002.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Psychiatry Service, 116A-1, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161. E-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.