Measuring and reporting treatment adherence: what can we learn by comparing two respiratory conditions?

Holly Tibble, Mary Flook, Aziz Sheikh, Athanasios Tsanas, Rob Horne, Bernard Vrijens, Sabina De Geest, Helen R. Stagg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Medication non‐adherence, defined as any deviation from the regimen recommended by their healthcare provider, can increase morbidity, mortality, and side effects, while reducing effectiveness. Through studying two respiratory conditions, asthma and tuberculosis (TB), we thoroughly review the current understanding of the measurement and reporting of medication adherence.

In this paper, we identify major methodological issues in the standard ways that adherence has been conceptualised, defined and studied in asthma and TB. Between‐ and within‐ the two diseases there are substantial variations in adherence reporting, linked to differences in dosing intervals and treatment duration. Critically, the communicable nature of TB has resulted in dose‐by‐dose monitoring becoming a recommended treatment standard. Through the lens of these similarities and contrasts, we highlight contemporary shortcomings in the generalised conceptualisation of medication adherence. Furthermore, we outline elements in which knowledge could be directly transferred from one condition to the other, such as the application of large‐scale cost‐effective monitoring methods in TB to resource‐poor settings in asthma.

To develop a more robust evidence‐based approach, we recommend the use of standard taxonomies detailed in the ABC Taxonomy when measuring and discussing adherence. Regimen and intervention development and use should be based on sufficient evidence of the commonality and type of adherence behaviours displayed by patients with the relevant condition. A systematic approach to the measurement and reporting of adherence could improve the value and generalisability of research across all health conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2020


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