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Drs. Gadkari and McHorney are full-time employees of and own stock in Merck & Co., Inc.
Both AG and CM contributed to the conception of the manuscript idea. CM led the instrument development and data collection process. AG led the statistical analysis and interpretation of data for the manuscript. Both AG and CM contributed to the original draft of the manuscript as well as to the critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. Both AG and CM have given final approval for the current version of the manuscript to be published.
Unintentional non-adherence has been characterized as passively inconsistent medication-taking behavior (forgetfulness or carelessness). Our objectives were to: (1) study the prevalence and predictors of unintentional non-adherence; and (2) explore the interrelationship between intentional and unintentional non-adherence in relation to patients’ medication beliefs.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey of adults with asthma, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, osteoporosis, or depression from the Harris Interactive Chronic Illness Panel. The analytic sample for this study included 24,017 adults who self-identified themselves as persistent to prescription medications for their index disease. They answered three questions on unintentional non-adherence (forgot, ran out, being careless), 11 questions on intentional non-adherence, and three multi-item scales assessing perceived need for medication (k = 10), perceived medication concerns (k = 6), and perceived medication affordability (k = 4). Logistic regression was used to model predictors of each unintentional non-adherence behavior. Baron and Kenny’s regression approach was used to test the mediational effect of unintentional non-adherence on the relationship between medication beliefs and intentional non-adherence. Bootstrapping was employed to confirm the statistical significance of these results.
For the index disease, 62% forgot to take a medication, 37% had run out of the medication, and 23% were careless about taking the medication. Common multivariate predictors (p < .001) of the three behaviors were: (1) lower perceived need for medications; (2) more medication affordability problems; (3) worse self-rated health; (4) diabetes or osteoporosis (relative to hypertension); and (5) younger age. Unique statistically-significant predictors of the three behaviors were: (a) ‘forgot to take medications’ - greater concerns about the index medication and male gender; (b) ‘run out of medications’ - non-white race, asthma, and higher number of total prescription medications; (c) ‘being careless’ - greater medication concerns. Mediational tests confirmed the hypothesis that the effect of medication beliefs (perceived need, concerns, and affordability) on intentional non-adherence is mediated through unintentional non-adherence.
For our study sample, unintentional non-adherence does not appear to be random and is predicted by medication beliefs, chronic disease, and sociodemographics. The data suggests that the importance of unintentional non-adherence may lie in its potential prognostic significance for future intentional non-adherence. Health care providers may consider routinely inquiring about unintentional non-adherence in order to proactively address patients’ suboptimal medication beliefs before they choose to discontinue therapy all together.