Deprescribing in Palliative Cancer Care

Life (Basel). 2022 Apr 20;12(5):613. doi: 10.3390/life12050613.


The aim of palliative care is to maintain as high a quality of life (QoL) as possible despite a life-threatening illness. Thus, the prescribed medications need to be evaluated and the benefit of each treatment must be weighed against potential side effects. Medications that contribute to symptom relief and maintained QoL should be prioritized. However, studies have shown that treatment with preventive drugs that may not benefit the patient in end-of-life is generally deprescribed very late in the disease trajectory of cancer patients. Yet, knowing how and when to deprescribe drugs can be difficult. In addition, some drugs, such as beta-blockers, proton pump inhibitors, anti-depressants and cortisone need to be scaled down slowly to avoid troublesome withdrawal symptoms. In contrast, other medicines, such as statins, antihypertensives and vitamins, can be discontinued directly. The aim of this review is to give some advice according to when and how to deprescribe medications in palliative cancer care according to current evidence and clinical praxis. The review includes antihypertensive drugs, statins, anti-coagulants, aspirin, anti-diabetics, proton pump inhibitors, histamin-2-blockers, bisphosphonates denosumab, urologicals, anti-depressants, cortisone, thyroxin and vitamins.

Keywords: cancer care; deprescribing; end-of-life; palliative care; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review