"It's like taking poison to kill poison but I have to get better": a qualitative study of beliefs about medicines in RA and SLE patients of South Asian origin

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Objective: To investigate factors that influence beliefs about medicines in patients of South Asian origin with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Methods: Qualitative methodology was used to explore the health beliefs of South Asian patients and in particular the factors that influenced their beliefs about medicines and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Thirty two patients with RA and SLE took part in focus group discussions. Patients who chose to participate in focus groups conducted in English were compared with those who chose to participate groups conducted in Punjabi or Urdu. Results: Three main themes emerged to explain patients beliefs about medicines: (1) Beliefs about the necessity of DMARDs; (2) Concerns about DMARDs and other prescribed medicines including: (a) long-term side-effects; (b) the apparent lack of efficacy of some therapies; (c) concerns about changing from one drug to another and the large numbers of different medicines being taken; (3) Contextual factors which informed the patient's view on the necessity for particular medicines and concerns about them including: (a) beliefs about the causes of disease and the influence of religious beliefs on this; (b) barriers to communication with health care professionals about the medications being prescribed in clinic. In addition, our data revealed that these beliefs about DMARDs had important consequences for patient behaviour, including the use of traditional dietary and other non-pharmacological approaches. There were differences in views expressed between those who chose to speak in English and those who did not. Conclusion: This study has identified themes that explain previous findings of negative beliefs about medicines in patients of South Asian origin. Beliefs about the causes of disease had an important impact on the way some patients viewed medicines for RA and SLE. This will have implications for educational programmes designed to promote patient involvement in disease management.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-844
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2011