Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.


Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login


Older people with terminal cancer 'overprescribed' preventative drugs

Using data from more than 150,000 patients, researchers conclude that there is room for deprescribing of preventative medicines in older people with cancer. 

Older patients with cancer receiving end-of-life care may be overprescribed preventative medicines, study results have shown[1]. The researchers also found that patients’ quality of life could be improved by deprescribing.

Looking at medicines prescribed to 151,201 older people in Sweden, who died from cancer between 2007 and 2013, study authors found that 52% of them were taking ten or more medicines. Preventative medicines including antihypertensives, statins, and oral antidiabetics were frequently continued until the final month of life, the authors said.

These preventative medicines amounted to one-fifth of the total cost of drugs prescribed to these patients, the authors said, and yet may have “limited clinical benefit near the end of life”, because the medicines are ”unlikely to achieve their clinical benefit during the patients’ remaining lifespan”.  The authors suggest that deprescribing of some of these medicines may improve patients’ quality of life by reducing the frequency of side effects.

Study author Lucas Morin, a doctoral student at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, said: “[Preventative medicines’] use in the context of limited life expectancy and palliative goals of care should be examined critically.

“Our finding that older adults with poor-prognosis cancers — including cancers of the brain, lung, liver, and pancreas — were just as likely as those with less aggressive disease to use preventive drugs during their last month of life suggests that there is room for deprescribing.”

An earlier study by different authors, published in June 2016, found that on average, more than a third of older patients nearing the end of their lives were given drugs which offered no benefit to them given their circumstances.

Mair Davies, director for Wales at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the use of preventative medicines in palliative care had been identified as an important issue during the development of the RPS’s policy Palliative and End of Life Care: Pharmacy’s contribution to improved patient care.

“We continue to advocate that pharmacists should be embedded into multidisciplinary palliative care teams in order to provide expertise on prescribing, deprescribing and medicines use.

”[The Society] also recognises the importance of co-production in palliative care and empowering patients to take control of their health care through discussions about their medicines regimen wherever possible.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206338

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

  • BNF and BNF for Children

    BNF and BNF for Children

    Now available as a 1 year print subscription to both the BNF and BNFC, ensuring you have the latest medicines information as it publishes and at a greatly reduced price.

    £138.50Buy now
  • BNF and BNF for Children

    BNF and BNF for Children

    Now available as a 2 year print subscription to both the BNF and BNFC, ensuring you have the latest medicines information as it publishes and at a greatly reduced price.

    £262.50Buy now
  • Drugs of Abuse

    Drugs of Abuse

    A concise, easy-to-read guide for healthcare professionals who encounter drug abuse.

    £38.00Buy now
  • Pharmaceutical Toxicology

    Pharmaceutical Toxicology

    Explains the methodology and requirements of pre-clinical safety assessments of new medicines. Includes registration requirements and pharmacovigilance.

    £40.00Buy now
  • Strategic Medicines Management

    Strategic Medicines Management

    A practical guide to influencing the availability of medicines, and policies of their use. Focuses on the strategic elements of medicines management.

    £33.00Buy now

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.