Nearly half of children with atopic dermatitis (AD) were not getting their medications as prescribed, according to a survey of parents of children with AD.

Perceived effectiveness was the main driver of this variation, Alan Schwartz PhD, and Korey Capozza, MPH, wrote in the study, published in Pediatric Dermatology.

“Responses suggest parents may be willing to use therapies with concerning side effects if they can see a clear benefit for their child’s eczema, but when anticipated improvements fail to materialize, they may change their usage, usually in the direction of using less medication or stopping,” observed Dr. Schwartz, of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Ms. Capozza, of Global Parents for Eczema Research.

“Addressing expectations related to effectiveness, rather than concerns about medication use, may thus be more likely to lead to taking medication as directed.”

The researchers posted a 15-question survey on the Facebook page of Global Parents for Eczema Research, an international coalition of parents of children with AD. During the month that the survey was posted, 86 parents completed it; questions pertained to adherence to medications and reasons for changing treatments. The mean age of their children was 6 years, most (about 83%) had moderate or severe eczema, and about half lived in the United States.

More than half (55%) reported using the AD medications as directed. But 30% said they took or applied less than prescribed, 13% had stopped the prescribed medication altogether, and 2% took or applied more (or more often) than prescribed.

There were several reasons stated for this variance. Concern over side effects was the most common (46%) reason for not using medications as directed. The next most common reasons were that the child’s symptoms went away (28%); or the “medication was not helping or was not helping as much,” in 23%.

A lack of physician trust or not agreeing with the physician’s recommendations accounted for 18% of the concerns. The remainder thought it wasn’t important to take the medication as prescribed, it was inconvenient or too time consuming, that they forgot, it was too expensive, or they were confused about the directions.

To the question asking “What would have made you more likely to use the medication as prescribed?” the most common answer was a clearer indication of effectiveness (56%). The next most common was “access to research or evidence about benefit and side effect profile” (14%).

A good relationship between the physician and patient was associated with taking medication as directed

“Improvement in adherence to topical treatments among children with AD could yield large gains in quality-of-life improvements and reduce exposure to costlier and potentially more toxic systemic agents,” the authors noted. “Given the large, documented gains in disease improvement, and even remission, achieved with interventions that address adherence among patients with other chronic diseases, strategies that address the underlying causes for poor adherence among parents of children with atopic dermatitis stand to provide a significant, untapped benefit.”

No financial disclosures were noted.

SOURCE: Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Aug 28. doi: 10.1111/pde.13991.