BACKGROUND: Adherence to anti-malarial medication is highly variable but frequently suboptimal. Numerous interventions with a variety of methodological approaches have been implemented to address the problem. A recently conducted, randomized, controlled trial in western Kenya evaluated the effects of short message service (SMS) reminders on paediatric adherence to artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and found over 97% adherence rates in both intervention and control arms. The current study was undertaken to explore participants’ experiences in the trial and identify the factors contributing to the high adherence rates.METHODS: In July 2016, 5 months after the trial completion, focus group discussions (FGDs) were undertaken with caregivers of children who had been treated in the intervention (n = 2) or control (n = 2) arms and who, post-trial, had received malaria treatment from the same facilities. The FGDs explored similarities and differences in perceptions and experiences of the care they received during and after the trial.RESULTS: Intervention-arm participants reported that SMS messages were effective dosing reminders. Participants from both arms reported that trial instructions to keep empty AL packs for verification during a home visit by a health worker affected their dosing and adherence practices. Differences between trial and post-trial treatment experiences included: administration of the first AL dose by health workers with demonstration of dispersible tablets dilution; advice on what to do if a child vomited; clear instructions on timing of dosing with efforts made to ensure understanding; and, information that dose completion was necessary with explanation provided. Participants reported that after the trial AL was not available at facilities, constraining their ability to adhere to recommended malaria treatment. They emphasized receiving respectful and personal treatment from trial health workers contributing to perceptions of high quality care and enhanced readiness to adhere to dosing instructions.CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the complex range of factors that influence AL adherence. The results suggest that in addition to standardized definitions and measurement of adherence, and the influence of enrolment procedures, AL adherence trials need to take account of how intervention impact can be influenced by differences in the quality of care received under trial and routine conditions.
Jones, C., Talisuna, A.O., Snow, R.W., Zurovac, D.