Medication adherence skills training for middle-aged and elderly adults with bipolar disorder: development and pilot study


  • The authors of this paper do not have any commercial associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with this manuscript.

Colin A Depp, PhD, University of California, San Diego, VA San Diego Healthcare System, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive (116A-1), San Diego, CA 92161, USA. Fax: + 1 858 552 7404; e-mail:


Objectives:  To present the rationale, development, and pilot study of a medication adherence skills training (MAST-BD) intervention for older adults with bipolar disorder (BPD). We developed a 12-week manualized group intervention that combined educational, motivational, medication management skills and symptom management training adapted for older adults.

Methods:  Among 21 older outpatients with BPD (mean age = 60 years; SD = 6), the feasibility and acceptability of MAST-BD were assessed in a quasi-experimental clinical trial. We also obtained preliminary effect sizes associated with pre–post change on measures of self-reported adherence to psychiatric medications, performance-based medication management ability, attitudes toward medication, depressive and manic symptoms, and health-related quality of life.

Results:  At baseline, 55% of participants reported recent non-adherence to psychiatric medications and were, on average, suffering from moderately severe depressive symptoms and minimal symptoms of mania. A total of 76% of participants completed the intervention, and 86% of sessions were attended by completers. Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the intervention and manual. Pre–post improvement by small to medium effect sizes (Cohen's d = 0.30–0.57) was seen in medication adherence, medication management ability, depressive symptoms, and selected indices of health-related quality of life.

Conclusions:  Notwithstanding the limitations of this small preliminary study, the results are encouraging in that the MAST-BD intervention was feasible, acceptable to patients, and associated with improvement in key outcomes. Suggestions for further development of medication adherence interventions for this neglected group of patients are discussed.