Toward appropriate criteria in medication adherence assessment in older persons: Position Paper

Anna Giardini, Maria Teresa Martin, Caitriona Cahir, Elaine Lehane, Enrica Menditto, Maria Strano, Sergio Pecorelli, Alessandro Monaco, Alessandra Marengoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nonadherence to medication regimens is a worldwide challenge; adherence rates range from 38 to 57 % in older populations with an average rate of less than 45 % and nonadherence contributes to adverse drug events, increased emergency visits and hospitalisations. Accurate measurement of medication adherence is important in terms of both research and clinical practice. However, the identification of an objective approach to measure nonadherence is still an ongoing challenge. The aim of this Position Paper is to describe the advantages and disadvantages of the known medication adherence tools (self-report, pill count, medication event monitoring system (MEMS) and electronic monitoring devices, therapeutic drug monitoring, pharmacy records based on pharmacy refill and pharmacy claims databases) to provide the appropriate criteria to assess medication adherence in older persons. To the best of our knowledge, no gold standard has been identified in adherence measurement and no single method is sufficiently reliable and accurate. A combination of methods appears to be the most suitable. Secondly, adherence assessment should always consider tools enabling polypharmacy adherence assessment. Moreover, it is increasingly evident that adherence, as a process, has to be assessed over time and not just at one evaluation time point (drug discontinuation). When cognitive deficits or functional impairments may impair reliability of adherence assessment, a comprehensive geriatric assessment should be performed and the caregiver involved. Finally, studies considering the possible implementation in clinical practice of adherence assessment tools validated in research are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-381
Number of pages11
JournalAging clinical and experimental research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Adherence
  • Chronic diseases
  • Elderly
  • Nonadherence
  • Polypharmacy
  • Tools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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