Strategies for improving adherence to antiepileptic drug treatment in people with epilepsy

Sinaa Al-Aqeel*, Olga Gershuni, Jawza Al-sabhan, Mickael Hiligsmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review



Poor adherence to antiepileptic medication is associated with increased mortality, morbidity and healthcare costs. In this review, we focus on interventions designed and tested in randomised controlled trials and quasi-randomised controlled trials to assist people with adherence to antiepileptic medication. This is an updated version of the original Cochrane review published in the Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2010.


To determine the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving adherence to antiepileptic medication in adults and children with epilepsy.

Search methods

For the latest update, on 4 February 2016 we searched the Cochrane EpilepsyGroup Specialized Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) via the Cochrane Register of Studies Online (CRSO), MEDLINE (Ovid 1946 to 4 February 2016), CINAHL Plus (EBSCOhost 1937 to 4 February 2016), PsycINFO (EBSCOhost 1887 to 4 February 2016), ClinicalTrials. gov, and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. We also searched the reference lists of relevant articles.

Selection criteria

Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials of adherence-enhancing interventions aimed at people with a clinical diagnosis of epilepsy (as defined in individual studies), of any age and treated with antiepileptic drugs in a primary care, outpatient or other community setting.

Data collection and analysis

All review authors independently assessed lists of potentially relevant citations and abstracts. At least two review authors independently extracted data and performed quality assessment of each study according to the Cochrane tool for assessing risk of bias. We graded the level of evidence for each outcome according to the GRADE working group scale. The studies differed widely according to the type of intervention and measures of adherence; therefore combining data was not appropriate.

Main results

We included 12 studies reporting data on 1642 participants (intervention = 833, control = 809). Eight studies targeted adults with epilepsy, one study included participants of all ages, one study included participants older than two years, one study targeted caregivers of children with epilepsy, and one study targeted families of children with epilepsy. We identified six ongoing trials. Follow-up time was generally short in most trials, ranging from one to 12 months. The trials examined three main types of interventions: educational interventions, behavioural interventions and mixed interventions. All studies compared treatment versus usual care or ' no intervention', except for two studies. Due to heterogeneity between studies in terms of interventions, methods used to measure adherence and the way the studies were reported, we did not pool the results and these findings were inappropriate to be included in ameta-analysis. Education and counselling of participants with epilepsy resulted in mixed success (moderate-quality evidence). Behavioural interventions such as use of intensive reminders provided more favourable effects on adherence (moderate-quality evidence). The effect on adherence to antiepileptic drugs described by studies of mixed interventions showed improved adherence in the intervention groups compared to the control groups (high-quality evidence).

Authors' conclusions

Behavioural interventions such as intensive reminders and the use of mixed interventions demonstrate some positive results; however, we need more reliable evidence on their efficacy, derived from carefully-designed randomised controlled trials before we can draw a firm conclusion. Since the last version of this review, none of the new relevant studies have provided additional information that would lead to significant changes in our conclusions. This current update includes 12 studies, of which six came from the latest searches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number008312
Number of pages54
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Anticonvulsants [therapeutic use]
  • Epilepsy [drug therapy]
  • Medication Adherence [psychology]
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans

Cite this