Patient barriers to and enablers of deprescribing: a systematic review

Drugs Aging. 2013 Oct;30(10):793-807. doi: 10.1007/s40266-013-0106-8.


Background: Inappropriate medication use is common in the elderly and the risks associated with their use are well known. The term deprescribing has been utilised to describe the complex process that is required for the safe and effective cessation of inappropriate medications. Given the primacy of the consumer in health care, their views must be central in the development of any deprescribing process.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to identify barriers and enablers that may influence a patient's decision to cease a medication.

Data sources: A systematic search of MEDLINE, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, EMBASE, CINAHL, Informit and Scopus was conducted and augmented with a manual search. Numerous search terms relating to withdrawal of medications and consumers' beliefs were utilised.

Study eligibility criteria: Articles were included if the barriers or enablers were directly patient/carer reported and related to long-term medication(s) that they were currently taking or had recently ceased.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods: Determination of relevance and data extraction was performed independently by two reviewers. Content analysis with coding was utilised for synthesis of results.

Results: Twenty-one articles met the criteria and were included in the review. Three themes, disagreement/agreement with 'appropriateness' of cessation, absence/presence of a 'process' for cessation, and negative/positive 'influences' to cease medication, were identified as both potential barriers and enablers, with 'fear' of cessation and 'dislike' of medications as a fourth barrier and enabler, respectively. The most common barrier/enabler identified was 'appropriateness' of cessation, with 15 studies identifying this as a barrier and 18 as an enabler.

Conclusions and implications of key findings: The decision to stop a medication by an individual is influenced by multiple competing barriers and enablers. Knowledge of these will aid in the development of a deprescribing process, particularly in approaching the topic of cessation with the patient and what process should be utilised. However, further research is required to determine if the proposed patient-centred deprescribing process will result in improved patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Safety
  • Withholding Treatment / statistics & numerical data*