Benefits of Effective Deprescribing for Patients Nearing End-of-Life

Eliminate excess medications that are more likely to harm than help patients.

A movement in the treatment of patients aged 65 years and older called deprescribing is underway to eliminate excess medications that are more likely to harm than help these patients. This practice involves a thorough evaluation of individual drug regimens that accumulate for patients over the course of their lives. Not simply a matter of counting pills, this process helps to eliminate medications that patients no longer need – and that may be doing more harm than good.

More than one-third of U.S. adults in their early 60s and beyond take at least five prescription medications. This unintended but pernicious cycle can lead to polypharmacy, which often occurs when an adverse drug effect is misinterpreted as a new medical problem. This misunderstanding leads to the prescribing of more medication to treat the initial drug-induced symptom.

Not only is this non-beneficial for the patient, but it also has a social and economical impact that can be especially difficult for individuals at the end-of-life.

Patients over 65

The majority of older people have more than one chronic condition, leading to multiple prescriptions by various prescribers. Inappropriate prescribing and polypharmacy, particularly in elderly patients, is associated with adverse effects, multiple drug interactions, increased risk of falls, hospital admissions and death.

Polypharmacy is a critical issue for all patients over the age of 65, with the risk escalating as people approach end-of-life. Patients receive both maintenance medications for chronic disease states and symptom management medications.

Financial Impact

The financial impact of polypharmacy extends beyond the cost of the medications. Additional healthcare visits and reduction in quality of life drive costs higher as patients’ overall health is impacted by their medication regimen.

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