Reducing potentially inappropriate medications in palliative cancer patients: evidence to support deprescribing approaches

Support Care Cancer. 2014 Apr;22(4):1113-9. doi: 10.1007/s00520-013-2098-7. Epub 2013 Dec 21.


Objectives: Cancer patients who have transitioned from curative intent chemotherapy or radiotherapy to palliative therapy have limited life expectancies. Due to this, medications for primary and secondary prevention or those with no short-term benefit are potentially inappropriate medicines in this patient group. These medications often have potentially harmful profiles, increasing the patient's adverse drug events, pill burden, and medication costs. This review evaluates the most current evidence to assess the outcomes and potential methods used for identifying and ceasing potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) in palliative cancer patients.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted using the databases Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, IPA, and CINAHL.

Results: Of the 51 articles examined in detail, three studies relating to cancer have been evaluated. In these retrospective and cross-sectional studies, the incidence of PIMs was shown in approximately 20% of patients, although the studies were inconsistent. In addition, six studies were identified that demonstrated the evidence in other population groups; these studies have been selected to establish the evidence in large-scale retrospective studies, prospective cross-sectional studies, both demonstrating the prevalence of PIMs, as well as the outcomes of ceasing PIMs.

Conclusion: There is evidence that PIMs are commonly prescribed in palliative care patients. There are no studies that have identified the impact of ceasing PIMS in this setting. Published tools and implemented strategies have focused on the elderly populations. Further research is warranted in establishing clear guidelines for the identification of PIMs in palliative cancer patients as well as interventional studies assessing the outcomes of ceasing PIMs in these patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing*
  • Medication Errors
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Palliative Care*


  • Antineoplastic Agents