Prescription Trends in Hospice Care: A Longitudinal Retrospective and Descriptive Medication Analysis

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2023 Aug;40(8):820-828. doi: 10.1177/10499091221130758. Epub 2022 Sep 28.


Background: In hospice and palliative care, drug therapy is essential for symptom control. However, drug regimens are complex and prone to drug-related problems. Drug regimens must be simplified to improve quality of life and reduce risks associated with drug-related problems, particularly at end-of-life. To support clinical guidance towards a safe and effective drug therapy in hospice care, it is important to understand prescription trends.

Objectives: To explore prescription trends and describe changes to drug regimens in inpatient hospice care.

Design: We performed a retrospective longitudinal and descriptive analysis of prescriptions for regular and as-needed (PRN) medication at three timepoints in deceased patients of one Swiss hospice.

Setting/subjects: Prescription records of all patients ( 18 years) with an inpatient stay of three days and longer (admission and time of death in 2020) were considered eligible for inclusion.

Results: Prescription records of 58 inpatients (average age 71.7 ± 12.8 [37-95] years) were analyzed. The medication analysis showed that polypharmacy prevalence decreased from 74.1% at admission to 13.8% on the day of death. For regular medication, overall numbers of prescriptions decreased over the patient stay while PRN medication decreased after the first consultation by the attending physician and increased slightly towards death.

Conclusions: Prescription records at admission revealed high initial rates of polypharmacy that were reduced steadily until time of death. These findings emphasize the importance of deprescribing at end-of-life and suggest pursuing further research on the contribution of clinical guidance towards optimizing drug therapy and deprescribing in inpatient hospice care.

Keywords: deprescribing; hospice; hospice care; medication analysis; medication safety; polypharmacy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Death
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prescriptions
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies