Have you ever started taking a medication and discovered that it produced an unpleasant side effect? That's not uncommon. Sometimes the doctor responds by prescribing an additional drug to manage a side effect from the first one. Occasionally a person will get caught in a cascade that results in several drugs to treat side effects caused by other medications. Changing the original prescription or deprescribing some of the medications might be the best solution.
As we grow older, we often accumulate health conditions along with our birthdays. The consequence can be a handful of pills to treat those conditions. Are there times when it makes sense to cut back on some of the treatments?
Older people are especially likely to be taking a large number of medicines. As life expectancy grows shorter, preventive medications may make less sense. When is it reasonable to de-prescribe?
Patients and prescribers can find out about deprescribing practices at Deprescribing.org
Mitchell T. Heflin, MD, MHS, is Associate Professor of Medicine and Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development and Duke University School of Medicine.
Laura C. Hanson, MD, MPH, is Professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Center for Aging and Health and the UNC Palliative Care Program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The photo is of Dr. Hanson.