Patient Preference and Adherence (Dec 2016)

Ethical considerations in adherence research

  • Patel NU,
  • Moore BA,
  • Craver RF,
  • Feldman SR

Journal volume & issue
Vol. Volume 10
pp. 2429 – 2435


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Nupur U Patel,1 Blake A Moore,1 Rebekah F Craver,2 Steven R Feldman1,2 1Department of Dermatology, Center for Dermatology Research, 2Department of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA Abstract: Poor adherence to treatment is a common cause of medical treatment failure. Studying adherence is complicated by the potential for the study environment to impact adherence behavior. Studies performed without informing patients about adherence monitoring must balance the risks of deception against the potential benefits of the knowledge to be gained. Ethically monitoring a patient’s adherence to a treatment plan without full disclosure of the monitoring plan requires protecting the patient’s rights and upholding the fiduciary obligations of the investigator. Adherence monitoring can utilize different levels of deception varying from stealth monitoring, debriefing after the study while informing the subject that some information had been withheld in regard to the use of adherence monitoring (withholding), informed consent that discloses some form of adherence monitoring is being used and will be disclosed at the end of the study (authorized deception), and full disclosure. Different approaches offer different benefits and potential pitfalls. The approach used must balance the risk of nondisclosure against the potential for confounding the adherence monitoring data and the potential benefits that adherence monitoring data will have for the research subjects and/or other populations. This commentary aims to define various methods of adherence monitoring and to provide a discussion of the ethical considerations that accompany the use of each method and adherence monitoring in general as it is used in clinical research. Keywords: compliance, stealth monitoring, deception, adherence monitoring