A substantial proportion of patients struggle to adhere to oral antineoplastic medications, a meta-analysis published in the journal The Oncologist has shown.1

“Given the tremendous growth and development of oral antineoplastic therapies in the last decade, significant gaps have emerged in oncology practice with respect to standardized procedures for safe administration, monitoring, and management of these medications,” the authors wrote.

“Although rates of adherence to oral antineoplastic therapies vary widely depending on population, cancer type, and method of measurement, a substantial proportion of patients struggle to take their oral antineoplastic medications as prescribed.”

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Although oral antineoplastic therapies reduce the burden of care for patients, adherence to these medications may be diminished as compared with infusions or injections administered in the clinic. Therefore, researchers sought to systematically review the literature to evaluate rates of adherence to these agents and factors that may reduce adherence.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 51 papers on rates/correlates of adherence to oral antineoplastic therapy and 12 papers on intervention strategies to improve adherence.

Results showed that rates of adherence vary from 46% to 100%, depending on patient sample, medication type, assessment measure, follow-up period, and calculation of adherence.

In terms of intervention strategies, the studies that evaluated them suffered from a high risk of bias and methodological concerns, thereby limiting their ability to guide medication adherence promotion.

“On the basis of current evidence and national recommendations, oncology practices should develop standard procedures for educating patients, reviewing and documenting treatment plans, and routinely monitoring patient adherence to oral antineoplastic therapies,” the authors conclude.


1. Greer JA, Amoyal N, Nisotel L, et al. A systematic review of adherence to oral antineoplastic therapies [published online ahead of print February 26, 2016]. Oncologist. doi:10.1634/theoncologist.2015-0405.