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Understanding medication-taking behaviours in kidney transplant recipients

05 May 2022

We have awarded Dr Antonia Cronin from King’s College London a grant for a PhD student to explore the factors that may affect whether patients take their medications as prescribed after kidney transplant.

Kidney transplants are lifesaving but still require life-long medications

Kidney transplant is the most effective treatment for kidney failure, but after a transplant, patients must take medications for the rest of their lives to stop their new kidney from being rejected. It is vital that people who have had a transplant continue to take their medication, but some patients do struggle and end up missing doses, taking the medication at the wrong time, or taking the wrong dose.

There has been little research into the reasons why people who have had a transplant may not always take their medication, but some have suggested that the beliefs a person has about their kidney transplant and medication, their mental health and psychological wellbeing and health inequalities may play a role. By improving our understanding of kidney patients’ beliefs about their illness and medication, we can help to maximise their chances of a successful kidney transplant.

Dr Antonia Cronin from King’s College London
Dr Antonia Cronin from King’s College London
PhD student Rosie Heape
PhD student Rosie Heape

Understanding why some patients do not take their medication as prescribed

We have awarded Antonia a grant for PhD student Rosie Heape, to explore the factors affecting the medication-taking behaviour of four kidney patient groups: patients with stage 5 chronic kidney disease, either pre-dialysis or on dialysis, on the transplant waiting list; patients who are 12-24 months post-transplant; patients who are at least 5 years post-transplant; and patients with a failing kidney transplant attending Transplant Support Clinic.

The researcher will investigate whether mental health, psychological wellbeing, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, age, gender, and level of health understanding impacts a patient’s medication-taking behaviour. They will then aim to develop an intervention tool to support patients and make sure they get the full benefits of their medications.

What might this mean for kidney patients?

This research will improve our understanding of factors affecting medication-taking behaviour in kidney patients and help identify patients that may potentially struggle. It will also help to develop ways for healthcare professionals to provide patients with information and techniques to support them with the challenges associated with taking lifelong medication. Above all, this research will help all kidney patients to maximise their chance of having a successful kidney transplant.

Antonia said: “I am thrilled to have been given this research opportunity by Kidney Research UK which will build upon self-report data we have collected for long-term kidney transplant patients at least 7 years post-transplant and patients 12-18 months post-transplant at Guy's and St. Thomas' Kidney Clinic. This research will continue to follow these and other transplant patient cohorts and help us gain a better understanding of the factors that may influence kidney transplant patients’ medication adherence, and how the nature of these may change over a patient’s transplant journey. A greater understanding of the drivers of non-adherence, underpinned by using theoretical models from health psychology, will enable us to develop ways to support kidney patients’ adherence to medication in transplant clinic. Ultimately, this research will help all kidney patients to maximize their change of having a successful kidney transplant.”

Antonia has been awarded a grant of £81,600 from Kidney Research UK for a PhD student to carry out this work.

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