Evaluation of a Pharmacist-Managed Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Deprescribing Program in an Integrated Health Care System

J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2020 Jul;26(7):918-924. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2020.26.7.918.


Background: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; however, they are also associated with various adverse effects, including gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and renal harm. As patients get older, some medications may no longer be beneficial or may even cause harm. Deprescribing is defined as the planned and supervised process of dose reduction or discontinuation of medications. While there are studies showing that deprescribing strategies with several classes of medications positively affects outcomes in elderly patients, there is a lack of strong evidence and guidance to deprescribe NSAIDs.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness, safety, and economic impact of pharmacists deprescribing NSAIDs under the guidance of a standardized deprescribing program compared with usual care within an integrated health care system.

Methods: This retrospective, propensity score-matched cohort study included patients aged ≥ 65 years who were eligible for the NSAID deprescribing program from July 2016 to June 2018. Those patients in the deprescribing group were assessed by pharmacists and had their medications deprescribed. Patients who were eligible for the deprescribing program but did not receive any interventions were matched to the deprescribed group using propensity score matching at a 4:1 ratio and became the usual care group. Patients were followed for 6 months, until end of membership, or until death, whichever occurred first. The effectiveness and safety outcomes included rates of 3 adverse events: GI bleeds, acute kidney injuries (AKI), and exacerbation of pain triggering a hospitalization or emergency room visit. The economic outcome was the change in monthly NSAID cost. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, chi-square tests, and conditional logistic regression models were used for analysis.

Results: There were 431 patients in the deprescribed group and 1,724 patients in the usual care group, with similar baseline characteristics after propensity score matching. The adjusted results showed no significant difference between the deprescribed and usual care groups for GI bleed events (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.36-1.16, P = 0.15) and AKI (OR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.24-1.16, P = 0.11). The deprescribed group experienced a significant 2-fold decrease in the odds of exacerbation of pain versus the deprescribed group (OR = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.33-0.77, P < 0.01). Finally, there was no significant difference in the change in monthly NSAIDs costs between the 2 groups (median change, IQR: -$0.29, -$2.37 to -$0.11 for deprescribed group; -$0.23, -2.59 to 0.00 for usual care group, P = 0.054).

Conclusions: Although this study did not find any difference in the rate of GI bleed or AKI, we found a significant decrease in the rate of exacerbation of pain in the deprescribed group versus the usual care group. This result suggests that deprescribing NSAIDs did not cause harm during the 6-month follow-up. Further long-term studies are necessary to validate these outcomes.

Disclosures: No funding was provided to support this research study. The authors of this study have no actual or potential conflicts of interest to report. Parts of this study were presented in a nonreviewed resident poster at the AMCP Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy Annual Meeting; March 25-28, 2019; San Diego, CA.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / standards*
  • Deprescriptions*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pharmaceutical Services / standards*
  • Pharmacists / standards*
  • Professional Role*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal