“I Did Not Want to Take That Medicine”: African-Americans’ Reasons for Diabetes Medication Nonadherence and Perceived Solutions for Enhancing Adherence

March 19, 2018



Diabetes is disproportionally burdensome among African-Americans (AAs) and medication adherence is important for optimal outcomes. Limited studies have qualitatively examined reasons for nonadherence among AAs with type 2 diabetes, though AAs are less adherent to prescribed medications compared to whites. This study explored the reasons for medication nonadherence and adherence among AAs with type 2 diabetes and examined AAs’ perceived solutions for enhancing adherence.


Forty AAs, age 45–60 years with type 2 diabetes for at least 1 year prior, taking at least one prescribed diabetes medication, participated in six semistructured 90-minute focus groups. Using a phenomenology qualitative approach, reasons for nonadherence and adherence, as well as participants’ perceived solutions for increasing adherence were explored. Qualitative content analysis was conducted.


AAs’ reasons for intentional nonadherence were associated with 1) their perception of medicines including concerns about medication side effects, as well as fear and frustration associated with taking medicines; 2) their perception of illness (disbelief of diabetes diagnosis); and 3) access to medicines and information resources. Participants reported taking their medicines because they valued being alive to perform their social and family roles, and their belief in the doctor’s recommendation and medication helpfulness. Participants provided solutions for enhancing adherence by focusing on the roles of health care providers, patients, and the church. AAs wanted provider counseling on the necessity of taking medicines and the consequences of not taking them, indicating the need for the AA community to support and teach self-advocacy in diabetes self-management, and the church to act as an advocate in ensuring medication use.


Intentional reasons of AAs with type 2 diabetes for not taking their medicines were related to their perception of medicines and illness. Solutions for enhancing diabetes medication adherence among AAs should focus on the roles of providers, patients, and the church.

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