The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2017 American Academy of Physician Assistants’ meeting in Las Vegas. Our staff will be reporting live on original research, case studies, and professional outreach and advocacy news from leading PAs in many specialty areas. Check back for the latest news from AAPA 2017. 

LAS VEGAS — Unpleasant side effects were the only statistically significant factor that influenced medication nonadherence among patients with chronic diseases, according to data presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2017 conference.

Shira Ehrlich, PA-S, and colleagues from the New York Institute of Technology conducted their study to evaluate why patients with chronic conditions do not comply with their medication regimens.

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An online survey was administered to 880 participants in the United States. The participants were at least 35 years of age and had at least 1 chronic medical condition that required pharmacotherapy for at least 6 months. Chronic diseases that were included in this study were hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, depression, heart disease, thyroid disease, anxiety, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, and HIV.

The researchers included 716 surveys in the analysis. Age, gender, household income, level of education, geographic region, heavy pill burden, and frequency of pill administration had no statistically significant effect on medication adherence.

Participants who experienced unpleasant side effects had a mean medication compliance score of 8.83, while participants who did not experience unpleasant side effects had a score of 9.38.

The results showed that 19.3% of participants reported that they experienced unpleasant side effects from their prescribed medications. In addition, 6.3% cited this as the reason for missing or skipping doses and 14.0% stopped taking their medications due to unpleasant side effects.

The investigators note that almost half of participants reported that they never received information regarding the side effects of their medication from their prescriber, and 19.7% reported that they did not receive information from a practitioner, nurse, or pharmacist.

“This is a significant modifiable factor that is largely in the hands of the prescriber and when addressed, will likely have a significant effect on compliance,” the investigators concluded. “By improving communication between the healthcare community and patients, compliance can be improved by managing medication-induced side effects.”

AAPA 2017 continues through Friday, May 19th. Visit for more information.


  1. Ehrlich S, Newkirk T, Pallas S, Riedinger T, Jackson D. Why are patients with chronic disease nonadherent with their prescription medications? Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2017 conference; May 15-19, 2017; Las Vegas.