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Rebecca Olin, MD, MS


How to Improve Adherence to Oral Medications in AML: Ask Patients

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Research presented in the Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology suggests that patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) may encounter barriers to oral medication adherence—and may be a source of assistance in addressing these challenges. Though treatment is still most commonly administered intravenously, oral anticancer medication is becoming more readily available.

“Addressing these barriers frequently and quickly can increase oral adherence,” concluded Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, RN-BC, OCN®, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues. “We believe that patients are an important source of insight into barriers and solutions to oral medication adherence.”

Four focus groups were held at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Participants were recruited through print advertisement and word of mouth and received gift cards in exchange for their time. Focus group sessions lasted 60 to 75 minutes and were digitally recorded and transcribed before being analyzed using a qualitative management software tool. A total of 11 patients, 6 of whom were women, participated. The median patient age was 61.5 years, and the group was racially diverse (6 were White, 3 were Black, 1 was American Pacific Islander, 1 was American Indian).

The focus groups reported three central themes affecting oral medication adherence: adherence challenges, adherence plans, and suggestions for improving adherence. Patients identified pill quantity and size, varying medication instructions, medication cost and availability, and adverse side effects as challenges to oral medication adherence. The focus groups recommended written administration schedules, including which medications should or should not be taken with food and the use of pillboxes and alarms. Patients suggested administration scheduling assistance, pill size reduction, packaging consistency, and more explicit instructions to improve oral medication adherence.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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