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Keywords:

  • immunomodulating agents;
  • medication adherence;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • transtheoretical model of behavior change

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, debilitating disease for which there is no cure. However, the recent introduction of injectable immunomodulating agents has made it possible to reduce the frequency of relapsing episodes and to possibly slow its progression. The use of these agents is recommended by the National MS Society, however, their true potential cannot be realized if patients do not accept them and healthcare professionals do not promote them. Because MS is unpredictable, and treatments can produce side effects, ensuring adherence to the recommended therapy is a complex and challenging issue. A better understanding of the obstacles to adherence, and the identification of possible solutions, should be of value to nurses, who have numerous opportunities to encourage patients to initiate and continue therapy. This article, which is in two parts, describes the particular problems of treatment adherence, and proposes that the transtheoretical model of behavior change can be useful in achieving treatment goals in MS and in other chronic disease states. This model is based upon the concept that a patient's “readiness for change” is crucial, and that attempts at intervention should be sensitive to the patient's changing conditions and state of mind. Nurses who work with patients with MS and other chronic diseases can apply the model to help their patients accept and adhere to the demands of ongoing treatment.