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Logo of annrheumdAnnals of the Rheumatic DiseasesVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Ann Rheum Dis. 2001 September; 60(9): 869–875.
PMCID: PMC1753835

Effect of patient education on adherence to drug treatment for rheumatoid arthritis: a randomised controlled trial


OBJECTIVE—To determine whether a patient education programme (PE) would improve rates of adherence to a slow acting antirheumatic drug and to assess any subsequent effect on patient outcome.
METHODS—A randomly controlled study comprising 100 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (49 control CG; 51 experimental EG) requiring D-penicillamine (DPA). The same practitioner saw patients on seven occasions, for the same length of time. The EG received 7 × 30 minute one to one sessions of PE, while the CG received standard management. The primary measure of adherence was a pharmacological marker (phenobarbitone) encapsulated with the DPA assayed at monthly intervals for six months. Plasma viscosity (PV), C reactive protein, articular index, morning stiffness, and pain score were used to assess outcome.
RESULTS—454 blood samples were collected and assayed and the pharmacological marker showed the EG to be significantly more adherent on more occasions than the CG (p<0.05). Patterns of adherence over time showed that at 12 weeks 86% (38/44) of those in the EG compared with 64% (29/45) of the CG remained adherent (p=0.01). These trends continued and by the end of the study 85% (29/34) of the EG compared with 55% (23/42) of the CG were taking their DPA as prescribed. Fifteen patients (12 from the EG) experienced side effects requiring study withdrawal and 14 patients requested study withdrawal (two from the EG). On study entry patients in the CG had significantly higher levels of PV than the EG and this remained so throughout the research. However, on completion, the health status of patients in both groups had improved significantly (p<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS—PE significantly increased adherence to DPA and its effects persisted over a period of six months. No additional clinical benefit was detected in the EG in comparison with the CG.

Figure 1
Levels of adherence over a six month period—analysis 1. *Difference significant at the 5% level.
Figure 2
Levels of adherence over a six month period—analysis 2. *Difference significant at the 5% level.

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