INTRODUCTION: Polypharmacy is prevalent in hospitals and deprescribing strategies for older people are strongly promoted. However, evidence of their feasibility and sustainability among patients receiving end of life care is lacking. The objective of this review was to ascertain effectiveness and post-discharge sustainability of hospital-initiated deprescribing strategies in older people near the end of life.
AREAS COVERED: The authors searched for controlled trials, with low risk of bias and measures of effectiveness post-discharge. Intervention description, duration and healthcare provider engagement were investigated for their impact on reduction of number of medications, proportions of patients prescribed inappropriate medications, returns to emergency, hospital admission and adverse events.
EXPERT OPINION: Limited evidence suggests hospital-initiated deprescribing interventions may reduce prescribing inappropriateness among older terminal patients in the short term, but evidence beyond 3 months is lacking for significant prevention of adverse events or health service utilisation. Heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis, and short follow-up periods precluded quantitative assessment of sustainability. Trials of older people with terminal conditions with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up periods are needed to confirm the effectiveness and sustainability of deprescribing at the end of life. Objective tools to reliably identify near end-of-life status would be useful in selecting target groups for these interventions.