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A meta-analysis of cognitive-based behaviour change techniques as interventions to improve medication adherence
  1. Claire Easthall1,
  2. Fujian Song2,
  3. Debi Bhattacharya1
  1. 1School of Pharmacy, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK
  2. 2Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Claire Easthall; c.easthall{at}


Objective To describe and evaluate the use of cognitive-based behaviour change techniques as interventions to improve medication adherence.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions to improve medication adherence.

Data sources Search of the MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL and The Cochrane Library databases from the earliest year to April 2013 without language restriction. References of included studies were also screened to identify further relevant articles.

Review methods We used predefined criteria to select randomised controlled trials describing a medication adherence intervention that used Motivational Interviewing (MI) or other cognitive-based techniques. Data were extracted and risk of bias was assessed by two independent reviewers. We conducted the meta-analysis using a random effects model and Hedges’ g as the measure of effect size.

Results We included 26 studies (5216 participants) in the meta-analysis. Interventions most commonly used MI, but many used techniques such as aiming to increase the patient's confidence and sense of self-efficacy, encouraging support-seeking behaviours and challenging negative thoughts, which were not specifically categorised. Interventions were most commonly delivered from community-based settings by routine healthcare providers such as general practitioners and nurses. An effect size (95% CI) of 0.34 (0.23 to 0.46) was calculated and was statistically significant (p < 0.001). Heterogeneity was high with an I2 value of 68%. Adjustment for publication bias generated a more conservative estimate of summary effect size of 0.21 (0.08 to 0.33). The majority of subgroup analyses produced statistically non-significant results.

Conclusions Cognitive-based behaviour change techniques are effective interventions eliciting improvements in medication adherence that are likely to be greater than the behavioural and educational interventions largely used in current practice. Subgroup analyses suggest that these interventions are amenable to use across different populations and in differing manners without loss of efficacy. These factors may facilitate incorporation of these techniques into routine care.

  • Medication Adherence
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Behaviour Change
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Adherence Intervention

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