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Treatment non-adherence in affective disorders

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Objective: The aim of this paper is to review the prevalence, predictors and methods for improving medication adherence in unipolar and bipolar affective disorders.

Method: Studies were identified through Medline and PsycLit searches of English language publications between 1976 and 2001. This was supplemented by a hand search and the inclusion of selected descriptive articles on good clinical practice.

Results: Estimates of medication non-adherence for unipolar and bipolar disorders range from 10 to 60% (median 40%). This prevalence has not changed significantly with the introduction of new medications. There is evidence that attitudes and beliefs are at least as important as side-effects in predicting adherence. The limited number of empirical studies of how to reduce non-adherence offer encouraging evidence that, if recognized, the problem can be overcome.

Conclusion: Only 1–2% of all publications on the treatment of affective disorders explore factors associated with medication non-adherence. This is disappointing as research and clinical data highlight the importance of extended courses of medication in improving the long-term prognosis of affective disorders.

Keywords: bipolar disorders; manic depression; non-adherence; non-compliance; unipolar disorders

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Claremont House, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2: University Department of Psychological Medicine, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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