Skip Navigation

How patients take Malaria treatment: A systematic review of the literature on adherence to antimalarial drugs


Plos One

Category: Publications

Author: Katia Bruxvoort, Catherine Goodman, S. Patrick Kachur, David Schellenberg

Published Date: 20 January 2014



High levels of patient adherence to antimalarial treatment are important in ensuring drug effectiveness. To achieve this goal, it is important to understand levels of patient adherence, and the range of study designs and methodological challenges involved in measuring adherence and interpreting results. Since antimalarial adherence was reviewed in 2004, there has been a major expansion in the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in the public sector, as well as initiatives to make them more widely accessible through community health workers and private retailers. These changes and the large number of recent adherence studies raise the need for an updated review on this topic.


We conducted a systematic review of studies reporting quantitative results on patient adherence to antimalarials obtained for treatment.


The 55 studies identified reported extensive variation in patient adherence to antimalarials, with many studies reporting very high adherence (90–100%) and others finding adherence of less than 50%. We identified five overarching approaches to assessing adherence based on the definition of adherence and the methods used to measure it. Overall, there was no clear pattern in adherence results by approach. However, adherence tended to be higher among studies where informed consent was collected at the time of obtaining the drug, where patient consultations were directly observed by research staff, and where a diagnostic test was obtained.


Variations in reported adherence may reflect factors related to patient characteristics and the nature of their consultation with the provider, as well as methodological variations such as interaction between the research team and patients before and during the treatment. Future studies can benefit from an awareness of the impact of study procedures on adherence outcomes, and the identification of improved measurement methods less dependent on self-report.


Research Aims

Related Projects

< Back