Hypertension is often insufficiently controlled in clinical practice, a prominent reason for this being poor patient adherence with therapy. Little is known about the underlying reasons for poor adherence. We set out to investigate hypertensive patients' self-reported reasons for adhering to or ignoring medical advice regarding antihypertensive medication.
Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with 33 hypertensive patients in a general-practice centre and a specialist hypertension unit in Southern Sweden. Blood-pressure measurements and laboratory measurements of antihypertensive medication were performed.
Nineteen out of 33 patients were classified as adherent. Adherence was a function of faith in the physician, fear of complications of hypertension, and a desire to control blood pressure. Non-adherence was an active decision, partly based on misunderstandings of the condition and general disapproval of medication, but mostly taken in order to facilitate daily life or minimize adverse effects. Adherent patients gave less evidence of involvement in care than non-adherent patients. There was no obvious relation between reported adherence, laboratory markers of adherence and blood-pressure levels.
The interview is a powerful tool for ascertaining patients' concepts and behaviour. To optimize treatment of hypertension, it is important to form a therapeutic alliance in which patients' doubts and difficulties with therapy can be detected and addressed. For this, effective patient-physician communication is of vital importance.