Lipid-lowering drugs are widely underused, despite strong evidence indicating they improve cardiovascular end points. Poor patient adherence to a medication regimen can affect the success of lipid-lowering treatment.
To assess the effects of interventions aimed at improving adherence to lipid-lowering drugs, focusing on measures of adherence and clinical outcomes.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO and CINAHL up to 3 February 2016, and clinical trials registers (ANZCTR and ClinicalTrials.gov) up to 27 July 2016. We applied no language restrictions.
We evaluated randomised controlled trials of adherence-enhancing interventions for lipid-lowering medication in adults in an ambulatory setting with a variety of measurable outcomes, such as adherence to treatment and changes to serum lipid levels. Two teams of review authors independently selected the studies.
Three review authors extracted and assessed data, following criteria outlined by the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. We assessed the quality of the evidence using GRADEPro.
For this updated review, we added 24 new studies meeting the eligibility criteria to the 11 studies from prior updates. We have therefore included 35 studies, randomising 925,171 participants. Seven studies including 11,204 individuals compared adherence rates of those in an intensification of a patient care intervention (e.g. electronic reminders, pharmacist-led interventions, healthcare professional education of patients) versus usual care over the short term (six months or less), and were pooled in a meta-analysis. Participants in the intervention group had better adherence than those receiving usual care (odds ratio (OR) 1.93, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.29 to 2.88; 7 studies; 11,204 participants; moderate-quality evidence). A separate analysis also showed improvements in long-term adherence rates (more than six months) using intensification of care (OR 2.87, 95% CI 1.91 to 4.29; 3 studies; 663 participants; high-quality evidence). Analyses of the effect on total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels also showed a positive effect of intensified interventions over both short- and long-term follow-up. Over the short term, total cholesterol decreased by a mean of 17.15 mg/dL (95% CI 1.17 to 33.14; 4 studies; 430 participants; low-quality evidence) and LDL-cholesterol decreased by a mean of 19.51 mg/dL (95% CI 8.51 to 30.51; 3 studies; 333 participants; moderate-quality evidence). Over the long term (more than six months) total cholesterol decreased by a mean of 17.57 mg/dL (95% CI 14.95 to 20.19; 2 studies; 127 participants; high-quality evidence). Included studies did not report usable data for health outcome indications, adverse effects or costs/resource use, so we could not pool these outcomes. We assessed each included study for bias using methods described in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. In general, the risk of bias assessment revealed a low risk of selection bias, attrition bias, and reporting bias. There was unclear risk of bias relating to blinding for most studies.
The evidence in our review demonstrates that intensification of patient care interventions improves short- and long-term medication adherence, as well as total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels. Healthcare systems which can implement team-based intensification of patient care interventions may be successful in improving patient adherence rates to lipid-lowering medicines.