Polypharmacy and Potentially Inappropriate Medications in Patients With Advanced Cancer: Prevalence and Associated Factors at the End of Life

J Palliat Med. 2024 Jun;27(6):749-755. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2023.0520. Epub 2024 Feb 14.


Background: Polypharmacy and potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) impose a burden on patients with advanced cancer near the end of their lives. However, only a few studies have addressed factors associated with PIMs in such patients. Objective: To examine polypharmacy and factors associated with PIMs in end-of-life patients with advanced cancer. Design: Retrospective chart review. Setting/Subjects: We analyzed 265 patients with advanced cancer who died in a palliative care unit (PCU) or at home in a home medical care (HMC) from April 2018 to December 2022 in Japan. Measurements: Sociodemographic, clinical, and prescription data at the time of PCU admission or HMC initiation were collected from electronic medical records. PIMs were assessed using OncPal Deprescribing Guidelines. Results: Patients with advanced cancer with an average age of 76.3 years and median survival days of 20 were included in the analyses. The average number of medications was 6.4 (standard deviation = 3.4), and PIMs were prescribed to 50.2%. Frequent PIMs included antihypertensive medications, peptic ulcer prophylaxis, and dyslipidemia medications. A multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that age ≥75 years (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.30, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.30-4.05), referral from an outpatient setting compared with inpatient setting (aOR = 2.06, 95% CI = 1.12-3.80), more than two comorbidities (aOR = 1.88, 95% CI = 1.08-3.29), and more than five medications (aOR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.03-3.28) were associated with PIMs. Conclusions: Medication reconciliation is recommended at the time of transition to a PCU or HMC, especially for older patients with advanced cancer who were referred from an outpatient setting and present more comorbidities and prescriptions.

Keywords: advanced cancer; end-of-life; palliative care; polypharmacy; potentially inappropriate medications.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Potentially Inappropriate Medication List*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care*