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Strategies Used by Older Adults with Asthma for Adherence to Inhaled Corticosteroids

A Capsule Commentary to this article was published on 23 August 2014



Older adults with asthma have low levels of adherence to their prescribed inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). While prior research has identified demographic and cognitive factors associated with ICS adherence among elderly asthmatics, little is known about the strategies that older adults use to achieve daily use of their medications. Identifying such strategies could provide clinicians with useful advice for patients when counseling their patients about ICS adherence.


To identify medication use strategies associated with good ICS adherence in older adults.


English-speaking and Spanish-speaking adults ages 60 years and older with moderate or severe asthma were recruited from primary care and pulmonary practices in New York City, NY, and Chicago, IL. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, other chronic lung diseases or a smoking history of greater than 10 pack-years were excluded.


Medication adherence was assessed with the Medication Adherence Rating Scale (MARS). Medication use strategies were assessed via open-ended questioning. “Good adherence” was defined as a mean MARS score of 4.5 or greater.


The rate of good adherence to ICS was 37 %. We identified six general categories of medication adherence strategies: keeping the medication in a usual location (44.2 %), integrating medication use with a daily routine (32.6 %), taking the medication at a specific time (21.7 %), taking the medication with other medications (13.4 %), using the medication only when needed (13.4 %), and using other reminders (11.9 %). The good adherence rate was greater among individuals who kept their ICS medication in the bathroom (adjusted odds ration [AOR] 3.05, 95 % CI 1.03–9.02, p = 0.04) or integrated its use into a daily routine (AOR 3.77, 95 % CI: 1.62–8.77, p = 0.002).


Keeping ICS medications in the bathroom and integrating them into daily routines are strategies associated with good ICS adherence. Clinicians concerned with adherence should consider recommending these strategies to their older asthmatic patients, although additional research is needed to determine whether such advice would improve adherence behaviors.

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The ABLE study was supported by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL096612). Ms. Brooks was supported through Project Learn of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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The authors declare that they do not have any conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Alex D. Federman MD, MPH.

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Brooks, T.L., Leventhal, H., Wolf, M.S. et al. Strategies Used by Older Adults with Asthma for Adherence to Inhaled Corticosteroids. J GEN INTERN MED 29, 1506–1512 (2014).

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  • medication adherence
  • asthma
  • inhaled corticosteroids