Abandoned acid? Understanding adherence to bisphosphonate medications for the prevention of osteoporosis among older women: A qualitative longitudinal study

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Background: There is significant morbidity and mortality caused by the complications of osteoporosis, for which ageing is the greatest epidemiological risk factor. Preventive medications to delay osteoporosis are available, but little is known about motivators to adhere to these in the context of a symptomless condition with evidence based on screening results.

Aim: To describe key perceptions that influence older women's adherence and persistence with prescribed medication when identified to be at a higher than average risk of fracture.

Design of Study: A longitudinal qualitative study embedded within a multi-centre trial exploring the effectiveness of screening for prevention of fractures.

Setting: Primary care, Norfolk. United Kingdom

Methods: Thirty older women aged 70–85 years of age who were offered preventive medication for osteoporosis and agreed to undertake two interviews at 6 and 24 months post-first prescription.

Results: There were no overall predictors of adherence which varied markedly over time. Participants' perceptions and motivations to persist with medication were influenced by six core themes: understanding adherence and non-adherence, motivations and self-care, appraising and prioritising risk, anticipating and managing side effects, problems of understanding, and decision making around medication. Those engaged with supportive professionals could better tolerate and overcome barriers such as side-effects.

Conclusions: Many issues are raised following screening in a cohort of women who have not previously sought advice about their bone health. Adherence to preventive medication for osteoporosis is complex and multifaceted. Individual participant understanding, choice, risk and perceived need all interact to produce unpredictable patterns of usage and acceptability. There are clear implications for practice and health professionals should not assume adherence in any older women prescribed medication for the prevention of osteoporosis. The beliefs and motivations of participants and their healthcare providers regarding the need to establish acceptable medication regimes is key to promoting and sustaining adherence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere83552
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014

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