BJECTIVES: Older people approaching end of life are commonly prescribed multiple medications, many of which may be inappropriate or futile. Our objective was to examine the effect of applying the STOPPFrail, a recently developed deprescribing tool, to the medication regimens of older patients with advanced frailty.
DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial.
SETTING: Two acute hospitals in Ireland.
PARTICIPANTS: Adults 75 years or older (n = 130) with advanced frailty and polypharmacy (five or more drugs), transferring to long-term nursing home care.
INTERVENTION: A STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing plan was presented to attending physicians who judged whether or not to implement recommended medication changes.
MEASUREMENTS: The primary outcome was the change in the number of regular medications at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included unscheduled hospital presentations, falls, quality of life, monthly medication costs, and mortality.
RESULTS: Intervention (n = 65) and control group (n = 65) participants were prescribed a mean (plus or minus standard deviation [SD]) of 11.5 (±3.0) and 10.9 (±3.5) medications, respectively, at baseline. The mean (SD) change in the number of medications at 3 months was -2.6 (±2.73) in the intervention group and -.36 (±2.60) in the control group (mean difference = 2.25 ± .54; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18-3.32; P < .001). The mean change in monthly medication cost was –$74.97 (±$148.32) in the intervention group and –$13.22 (±$110.40) in the control group (mean difference $61.74 ± $26.60; 95% CI = 8.95-114.53; P = .02). No significant differences were found between groups for any of the other secondary outcomes.
CONCLUSION: STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing significantly reduced polypharmacy and medication costs in frail older people. No significant differences between groups were observed with regard to falls, hospital presentations, quality of life, and mortality, although the trial was likely underpowered to detect differences in these outcomes.
The management of medications in persons with frailty presents challenges. There is evidence of inappropriate prescribing and a lack of consensus among healthcare professionals on the judicious use of medications, particularly for patients with more severe frailty. This study reviews the evidence on the use of commonly prescribed pharmacological treatments in advanced frailty based on a questionnaire of prescribing practices and attitudes of healthcare professionals at different stages in their careers, in different countries. A convenience sample of those attending hospital grand rounds in Ireland, Canada and Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) were surveyed on the management of 18 medications in advanced frailty using a clinical vignette (man with severe dementia, Clinical Frailty Scale 7/9). Choices were to continue or discontinue (stop now or later) medications. In total, 298 respondents from Ireland (n = 124), Canada (n = 110), and ANZ (n = 64) completed the questionnaire, response rate 97%, including 81 consultants, 40 non-consultant hospital doctors, 134 general practitioners and 43 others (nurses, pharmacists, and medical students). Most felt that statins (88%), bisphosphonates (77%) and cholinesterase inhibitors (76%) should be discontinued. Thyroid replacement (88%), laxatives (83%) and paracetamol (81%) were most often continued. Respondents with experience in geriatric, palliative and dementia care were significantly more likely to discontinue medications. Age, gender and experience working in nursing homes did not contribute to the decision. Reflecting the current literature, there was no clear consensus on inappropriate prescribing, although respondents preferentially discontinued medications for secondary prevention. Experience significantly predicted the number and type discontinued, suggesting that education is important in reducing inappropriate prescribing for people in advanced states of frailty.