A pilot randomized controlled trial of deprescribing

Ther Adv Drug Saf. 2011 Apr;2(2):37-43. doi: 10.1177/2042098611400332.


Objective: Polypharmacy and adverse drug reactions are frequent and important among older people. Few clinical trials have evaluated systematic withdrawal of medications among older people. This small, open, study was conducted to determine the feasibility of a randomized controlled deprescribing trial.

Methods: Ten volunteers living in the community (recruited by media advertising) and 25 volunteers living in residential aged-care facilities (RCFs) were randomized to intervention or control groups. The intervention was gradual withdrawal of one target medication. The primary outcome was the number of intervention participants in whom medication withdrawal could be achieved. Other outcomes measures were quality of life, medication adherence, sleep quality, and cognitive impairment.

Results: Participants were aged 80 ± 11 years and were taking 9 ± 2 medications. Fifteen participants commenced medication withdrawal and all ceased or reduced the dose of their target medication. Two subjects withdrew; one was referred for clinical review, and one participant declined further dose reductions.

Conclusions: A randomized controlled trial of deprescribing was acceptable to participants. Recruitment in RCFs is feasible. Definitive trials of deprescribing are required.

Keywords: ageing; deprescribing; polypharmacy prescriptions; treatment withdrawal.