Use of unnecessary medications by patients with advanced cancer: cross-sectional survey

Support Care Cancer. 2011 Sep;19(9):1313-8. doi: 10.1007/s00520-010-0947-1. Epub 2010 Jul 21.


Background: Cancer patients at the end of life take numerous medications. However, it has not been assessed what proportion of patients take unnecessary medications and which patients are at risk for doing so.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of medications utilized by terminally ill ambulatory cancer patients, with the aim of identifying medications considered unnecessary as per explicit criteria. The criteria took into account whether drugs could benefit patients with terminal cancer.

Results: Among 87 patients, 21 (24%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 15.6-34.5%) were taking at least one unnecessary medication, the most common being gastric protectors. In multivariable analyses, patients with Charlson Comobidity Index≤1 (OR: 4.49, CI95% 1.32-15.26; p=0.01) or whose medication list had not been reconciled by physicians (OR: 6.38, CI95% 1.21-33.40; p=0.02) were more likely to use an unnecessary medication.

Conclusion: Patients with advanced cancer take many medications considered unnecessary. Medication reconciliation should be performed routinely for these patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Reconciliation / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / standards
  • Terminally Ill