Deprescribing cuts deaths in some studies but not others

Analysis of non-randomised studies found that deprescribing polypharmacy reduces mortality, while randomised studies showed no effect on mortality.

Elderly woman holds a handful of pills with a pillbox beside her

The supervised discontinuation of an inappropriate drug, known as deprescribing, has been suggested as an intervention to reduce the harms of polypharmacy in older adults but the effect on health outcomes has not been established. 

Researchers from the University of Western Australia analysed 132 studies involving 34,143 patients aged 65 years and over who received a deprescribing intervention. 

They found that in non-randomised and patient-specific intervention studies, deprescribing polypharmacy significantly reduced mortality. But there was no effect on mortality in randomised studies and those examining generalised educational programmes. Reassuringly, deprescribing was not associated with adverse effects on quality of life or health outcomes. 

Reporting in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (online, 13 June 2016)[1]
, the researchers say that although the review shows that deprescribing is feasible, further rigorous studies are needed to confirm its effect on outcomes.


[1] Page AT, Clifford RM, Potter K et al. The feasibility and effect of deprescribing in older adults on mortality and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2016. doi: 10.1111/bcp.12975

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, August 2016, Vol 8, No 8;8(8):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201317

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