Patient perceptions of proactive medication discontinuation

Patient Educ Couns. 2015 Feb;98(2):220-5. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2014.11.010. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Objective: While many patients prefer fewer medications, decisions about medication discontinuation involve collaboration between patients and providers. We sought to identify patient perspectives on intentional medication discontinuation in order to optimize medication use.

Methods: We conducted 20 interviews and two focus groups with a convenience sample of patients (22 men, 5 women; mean age 66 years) at two US Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. We queried patients' experiences with and attitudes toward taking multiple medications, preferences about taking fewer medications, and communication with their providers about stopping a medicine. Transcripts were analyzed qualitatively.

Results: Three main themes emerged to create a conceptual model of medication discontinuation from the patient perspective: (1) conflicting views of medication, encompassing the sub-themes of desire for fewer medications, adherence, and specific versus general; (2) importance of patient-provider relationships, encompassing the sub-themes of trust, relying on expertise, shared decision making, and balancing multiple providers; and (3) limited experience with medication discontinuation.

Conclusion: Many patients who have a preference to take fewer medicines do not share their beliefs with providers and recall few instances of provider-initiated medication discontinuation.

Practice implications: Strengthening patient-provider relationships and eliciting patient attitudes about taking fewer medications may enable appropriate discontinuation of unnecessary medications.

Keywords: Communication; Medication safety; Patient beliefs; Shared decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Decision Making*
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Trust