When patients take too many drugs, doctors deprescribe

An increasing number of doctors are adopting an approach known as deprescribing to help adults reduce excessive use of prescription drugs and OTC medications and supplements. Studies show nearly 40% of patients in their 60s take more than five medications.

An increasing number of doctors are adopting an approach known as deprescribing to help adults reduce excessive use of prescription drugs and OTC medications and supplements. Studies show nearly 40% of patients in their 60s take more than five medications. Doctors conduct comprehensive medication reviews, using screening programs to identify possible adverse effects and interactions, then wean patients off drugs that are unnecessary or where risks outweigh benefits. Pharmacist Barbara Farrell and Cara Tannenbaum, MD, the scientific director of the Institute of Gender and Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Montreal, have developed a website, deprescribing.org, which is maintained by the Canadian Deprescribing Network, a group that includes health professionals, policy makers and patient advocates. The site, used by doctors in both the United States and Canada, provides information to help patients determine if they should consider stopping certain medications that may be unnecessary or cause harm. Andrew Whitman, a doctor of pharmacy and clinical specialist in palliative care at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center, says medication reviews are especially important for older cancer patients, who on average take 12 medications and are often frail from radiation and chemotherapy.