Challenges of deprescribing in the multimorbid patient

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Older patients often have multimorbidity, frequently resulting in polypharmacy. Independently, multimorbidity and polypharmacy are among the biggest risk factors for inappropriate medication, adverse drug reactions, adverse drug events and morbidity, leading to patient harm and hospitalisations. After a medication review, discontinuation of medication or deprescribing is one of the most common recommendations but is likely to be ignored. The deprescribing process includes some or all of the following elements: a review of current medications, identification of medications to be discontinued, a discontinuation regimen, involvement of patients and a review with follow-up. In addition to the complexity presented by prescribing or deprescribing for older multimorbid patients, other factors act as barriers to discontinuation of medications in these patients; these include interprofessional relationships, difficulties with medication reviews, deficiencies in knowledge and evidence and patients' preferences/resistance to change. These challenges are compounded by the need to manage the shared treatment of multiple conditions by several prescribers from different specialties based on disease-specific guidelines without evidence of effects on the older, frailer, multimorbid patients. The interdisciplinary effort in the treatment of such patients needs to improve to ensure that we treat the patient holistically and not just the individual conditions of the multimorbid patient, according to guidelines. We must first, however, equip prescribers to identify instances where deprescribing is appropriate and then make the necessary changes to pharmacotherapy.




Cullinan, S., Raae Hansen, C., Byrne, S., O’Mahony, D., Kearney, P., & Sahm, L. (2017, January 1). Challenges of deprescribing in the multimorbid patient. European Journal of Hospital Pharmacy . BMJ Publishing Group.

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