Background: Diabetes is a chronic condition which requires many patients to use medications for the remainder of their lives. While this regimen is demanding, little research has been done on the experiences individuals have with diabetes medication use and the continuity of use, especially patients from rural areas of Tanzania. This study explores the lived experiences of diabetes medication use and the continuity of use among adult diabetes patients from rural communities with limited access to diabetes medicines.

Methods: We conducted 19 in-depth interviews to explore patients’ experiences with diabetes medication use and the continuity of use. We employed the 5As of access to care to situate the behavioral practices surrounding diabetes medication use in the study settings. The data analysis followed grounded theory principles, and was conducted with the help of NVivo 9.

Results: Study participants expressed positive attitudes toward the use of diabetes medicines, but also concerns about affordability. The patients employed two main strategies for dealing with the cost. The first was to increase their available funds by spending less money on family needs, selling household property, asking family and friends for money, or borrowing cash. They also reported sourcing medicines from pharmacies to save on consultation and laboratory costs. Second, participants reported using less than the recommended dosage or skipping doses, and sharing medicines. The geographic accessibility of diabetes service providers, the availability of medication, and the organization of the diabetes services were also cited as barriers to taking medications and to using them continuously.

Conclusions: The strategies employed by the people in this study illustrate their resilience in the face of poverty and failing health care systems. More comprehensive strategies are therefore needed to encourage consistent medication use among people with chronic conditions. These strategies could include the reduction of prices by pharmaceuticals, the strengthening of community risk-pooling mechanisms and sustained health campaigns aimed at patients and the community.

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This study was supported by grants from the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Building in Higher Education (NICHE/TZA/005) project.,
BMC Health Services Research
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Metta, E., Haisma, H., Kessy, F., Geubbels, E., Hutter, I., & Bailey, A. (2015). "It is the medicines that keep us alive". BMC Health Services Research, 15(1, article number 111). doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0768-5