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Medication Adherence in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Effect of Patient Education, Health Literacy, and Musculoskeletal Ultrasound

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Joplin S1, van der Zwan R2, Joshua F3, Wong PK4. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:150658. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Background. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic systemic inflammatory disease affecting <1% of the population. Incompletely controlled RA results in fatigue, joint and soft tissue pain, progressive joint damage, reduced quality of life, and increased cardiovascular mortality. Despite an increasing range of disease modifying agents which halt disease progression, poor patient adherence with medication is a significant barrier to management. Objective. The goal of this review was to examine the effectiveness of measures to improve patient medication adherence. Methods. Studies addressing treatment adherence in patients with RA were identified by trawling PsycINFO, Medline, Cochrane, Pubmed, and ProQuest for studies published between January 2000 and October 2014. Articles were independently reviewed to identify relevant studies. Results. Current strategies were of limited efficacy in improving patient adherence with medications used to treat RA. Conclusion. Poor medication adherence is a complex issue. Low educational levels and limited health literacy are contributory factors. Psychological models may assist in explaining medication nonadherence. Increasing patient knowledge of their disease seems sensible. Existing educational interventions appear ineffective at improving medication adherence, probably due to an overemphasis on provision of biomedical information. A novel approach to patient education using musculoskeletal ultrasound is proposed.