Feasibility study of a systematic approach for discontinuation of multiple medications in older adults: addressing polypharmacy

Arch Intern Med. 2010 Oct 11;170(18):1648-54. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.355.


Background: Polypharmacy and inappropriate medication use is a problem in elderly patients, who are more likely to experience adverse effects from multiple treatments and less likely to obtain the same therapeutic benefit as younger populations. The Good Palliative-Geriatric Practice algorithm for drug discontinuation has been shown to be effective in reducing polypharmacy and improving mortality and morbidity in nursing home inpatients. This study reports the feasibility of this approach in community-dwelling older patients.

Methods: The Good Palliative-Geriatric Practice algorithm was applied to a cohort of 70 community-dwelling older patients to recommend drug discontinuations. Success rates of discontinuation, morbidity, mortality, and changes in health status were recorded.

Results: The mean (SD) age of the 70 patients was 82.8 (6.9) years. Forty-three patients (61%) had 3 or more and 26% had 5 or more comorbidities. The mean follow-up was 19 months. Participants used a mean (SD) of 7.7 (3.7) medications. Protocol indicated that discontinuation was recommended for 311 medications in 64 patients (58% of drugs; mean [SD], 4.4 [2.5] drugs per patient overall, 4.9 per patient who had discontinuation). Of the discontinued drug therapies, 2% were restarted because of recurrence of the original indication. Taking nonconsent and failures together, successful discontinuation was achieved in 81%. Ten elderly patients (14%) died after a mean follow-up of 13 months, with the mean age at death of 89 years. No significant adverse events or deaths were attributable to discontinuation, and 88% of patients reported global improvement in health.

Conclusions: It is feasible to decrease medication burden in community-dwelling elderly patients. This tool would be suitable for larger randomized controlled trials in different clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Chronic Disease / drug therapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Frail Elderly*
  • Health Services for the Aged / standards*
  • Health Status
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Nursing Homes
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*