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Keywords:

  • headache;
  • acute medication;
  • medication adherence;
  • qualitative

Objective

This study aims to qualitatively examine the behaviors required to optimally use acute headache medication and the barriers to successful performance of these behaviors.

Background

The efficacy of drug treatment is partly determined by medication adherence. The adherence literature has focused almost exclusively on the behaviors required to optimally use medications that are taken on a fixed schedule, as opposed to medications taken on an as needed basis to treat acute episodes of symptoms, such as headaches.

Methods

Twenty-one people with headache and 15 health care providers participated in qualitative phenomenological interviews that were transcribed and coded by a multidisciplinary research team using phenomenological analysis.

Results

Interviews revealed 8 behaviors required to optimally use acute headache medication, including cross-episode behaviors that people with headache regularly perform to ensure optimal acute headache medication use, and episode-specific behaviors used to treat an individual headache episode. Interviews further revealed 9 barriers that hinder successful performance of these behaviors.

Conclusions

Behaviors required to optimally use acute headache medication were numerous, often embedded in a larger chain of behaviors, and were susceptible to disruption by numerous barriers.