Intensifying therapy for hypertension despite suboptimal adherence

Adam J. Rose, Dan R. Berlowitz, Meredith Manze, Michelle B. Orner, Nancy R. Kressin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


More intensive management can improve control blood pressure (BP) in hypertensive patients. However, many would posit that treatment intensification (TI) is not beneficial in the face of suboptimal adherence. We investigated whether the effect of TI on BP varies by adherence. We enrolled 819 patients with hypertension, managed in primary care at an academically-affiliated inner-city hospital. We used the following formula to characterize TI: (visits with a medication change-visits with elevated BP)/total visits. Adherence was characterized using electronic monitoring devices ("MEMS caps"). Patients who returned their MEMS caps (671) were divided into quartiles of adherence, whereas patients who did not return their MEMS caps (148) had "missing" adherence. We examined the relationship between TI and the final systolic blood pressure (SBP), controlling for patient-level covariates. In the entire sample, each additional therapy increase per 10 visits predicted a 2.0 mm Hg decrease in final SBP (P<0.001). After stratifying by adherence, in the "best" adherence quartile each therapy increase predicted a 2.1-mm Hg decrease in final SBP, followed by 1.8 for the "next-best" adherence quartile, 2.3 in the third quartile, and 2.4 in the "worst" adherence quartile. The effect size for patients with "missing" adherence was 1.6 mm Hg. The differences between the group with "best" adherence and the other 4 groups were not statistically significant. In this observational study, treatment intensification was associated with similar BP improvement regardless of the patient's level of adherence. A randomized trial could further examine optimal management of patients with suboptimal adherence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)524-529
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adherence
  • Ambulatory care
  • Hypertension
  • Medication therapy management
  • Quality of care


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