Understanding barriers to and strategies for medication adherence in COPD: a qualitative study

Jacqueline O’Toole, Meera Krishnan, Kristin Riekert, Michelle N. Eakin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Medication adherence in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is low, though not enough is known about the factors that affect adherence in COPD. This study uses qualitative methods to understand the patient perspective on facilitators and barriers to medication adherence in COPD as well as patient-reported strategies for self-management of disease. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 individuals (n = 30). Transcripts were analyzed using iterative qualitative coding by 2 independent coders, and codes were categorized using thematic analysis. Results: Challenges with adherence reported were gaps in understanding, forgetfulness of the patient, physician availability, cost navigation, and overcoming substance use. Most commonly, the financial burden of COPD medications caused patients to source other countries to obtain medications, rely on sample medications collected during doctors’ visits, and to alter medication dosage and frequency to extend the length of a prescription. Tools and resources reported by patients to support self-management of COPD included pharmacist assistance, physician office information, and community resources. Individuals further reported that the use of logs or diaries to track medication usage, visual or temporal cues to take medications, and support from family members were helpful in promoting adherence to their COPD medication regimen. Conclusions: Medication adherence in individuals with COPD is affected by challenges with self-management of disease and financial burden of medications. However, patients reported multiple tools and resources to support adherence. Physician recognition of these factors impacting self-management, as well as awareness of strategies to promote adherence and manage disease, may improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number98
JournalBMC pulmonary medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Access to care
  • Adherence
  • Barriers to care
  • Patient experience
  • Routine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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