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Patient non-compliance is an ever present and complex issue, the importance of which is likely to increase in successive years as the population ages. Non-compliant behaviour is not only costly in terms of time, money and resources, but can also be detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship. Assessment of the prevalence and nature of non-compliance is difficult, but several determinant factors have been found to be associated with it. The aim of this review is to consider these factors and so increase the doctor's awareness of this problem.