An overview of the use of drugs in palliative care settings worldwide

Natalia Krzyżaniak*, Iga Pawłowska, Karolina Kuźbicka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: To provide an overview of drug use in palliative care worldwide and to identify the most commonly used medicines in palliative care settings. Methods: Quasi–systematic review. Search strategy: Medline/PubMed, Embase, SCOPUS and Google Scholar were searched utilizing the selected MeSH terms: palliative care, hospice, drug utilization, and prescription patterns. Results: Overall, it is apparent that there is a significant lack of published literature outlining drug usage in palliative care settings. Twelve sources of information were reviewed from 9 different countries including Austria (n = 1), Brazil (n = 1), Canada (n = 1), Germany (n = 1), Italy (n = 2), Netherlands (n = 2), Norway (n = 1), Switzerland (n = 1) and USA (n = 3), as well as a multinational study comparing 11 European countries. Medication use between countries was similar. The most commonly prescribed classes of medicines included non-opioid analgesics, opioids, laxatives, sedatives and antipsychotics and the most commonly prescribed individual drugs comprised morphine, haloperidol, laxatives and paracetamol. Conclusions: The literature identifies that there is insufficient evidence to describe and compare what drugs are currently used in palliative care settings worldwide. This is attributed to the lack of recently published articles leading to a large gap in knowledge in understanding drug utilization practices in palliative care. Further research is required to address these gaps in knowledge, and identify medication management issues in palliative care and determining whether there are significant differences in drug management practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-141
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative Medicine in Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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