In end-of-life care, deprescribing practices may vary considerably from one practitioner to the next, although most published frameworks for evaluating medication appropriateness in advanced illness consider three key principles (1) patient and caregiver goals, (2) remaining life expectancy (LE), and (3) medication time to benefit (TTB). The objective of this article is to provide clinicians with a structured, consistent approach for deprescribing that does not replace clinical judgment or the preferences of patients and their families but enhances it through clinical data. The emphasis will be on the time component of published models, including how to estimate remaining LE and medication TTB. Through case examples of two new hospice admissions, LE and TTB will be estimated and applied to deprescribing decisions. This time-centric approach may satisfy the palliative and hospice clinicians' desire for clear clinical justification for medication discontinuation while at the same time providing a strategy for communicating deprescribing rationale to patients and families.
INTRODUCTION: Notwithstanding high prevalence of presumably bacterial infections in elderly persons (EP) in palliative care (PC), there exists no recommendation on the role of antibiotic therapy (ABP) in this type of situation.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the determinants of antibiotic prescription by general practitioners (GP) and by doctors practicing in institutions (DPI) for patients > à 75 years, in end-of-life situations in PC.
METHOD: Descriptive investigation by anonymous self-administered questionnaire disseminated in France by e-mail.
RESULTS: 301 questionnaires analyzed: 113 GP, 188 DPIs. The latter were mainly geriatricians (69, 36.6%) and infectologists/internists (42, 22.4%). Sixty-three (55,75%) GPs et 144 (78.7%) DPIs stated that they had prescribed antibiotics. Practice in EHPAD retirement homes or intensive care was often associated with non-prescription of antibiotics. Age, PC training and number of patients monitored bore no influence. Family involvement in decision-making was more frequent for GPs than for DPIs. The main purpose of antibiotic therapy was to relieve different symptoms (fever, respiratory congestion, functional urinary signs). Most of the doctors (81%) had previously encountered complications (allergy, adverse effect), which represented the main causes of treatment discontinuation.
CONCLUSION: Antibiotic use in end-of-life EPs in PC seems frequent. In accordance with the principle of beneficence, its goal of often symptom-related; that said, in the absence of scientific data, antibiotic prescription in end-of-life situations should be individualized in view of observing the other ethical caregiving principles (beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, patient autonomy) and reevaluated daily.
Objective: Antibiotic use at the end of life (EoL) may introduce physiological as well as psychological stress and be incongruent with patients’ goals of care. Advance care planning (ACP) related to antibiotic use at the EoL helps improve goal-concordant care. Many nursing home (NH) residents are seriously ill. Therefore, we aimed to examine whether state and regional ACP initiatives play a role in the presence of “do not administer antibiotics” orders for NH residents at the EoL.
Methods: We surveyed a random, representative national sample of 810 U.S. NHs (weighted n = 13,983). The NH survey included items on “do not administer antibiotics” orders in place and participation in infection prevention collaboratives. The survey was linked to state Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) adoption status and resident, facility, and county characteristics data. We conducted multivariable regression models with state fixed effects, stratified by state POLST designation.
Results: NHs in mature POLST states reported higher rates of “do not administer antibiotics” orders compared to developing POLST states (10.1% vs. 4.6%, respectively, p = 0.004). In mature POLST states, participation in regional collaboratives and smaller NH facilities (<100 beds) were associated with having “do not administer antibiotics” orders for seriously ill residents (ß = 0.11, p = 0.006 and ß = 0.12, p = 0.003, respectively).
Discussion: NHs in states with mature POLST adoption that participated in infection control collaboratives were more likely to have “do not administer antibiotics” orders. State ACP initiatives combined with regional antibiotic stewardship initiatives may improve inappropriate antibiotic use at the EoL for NH residents.
BACKGROUND: Patient access to medicines at home during the last year of life is critical for symptom control, but is thought to be problematic. Little is known about healthcare professionals' practices in supporting timely medicines access and what influences their effectiveness. The purpose of the study was to evaluate health professionals' medicines access practices, perceived effectiveness and influencing factors.
METHODS: On-line questionnaire survey of health care professionals (General Practitioners, Community Pharmacists, community-based Clinical Nurse Specialists and Community Nurses) delivering end-of-life care in primary and community care settings in England. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics.
RESULTS: One thousand three hundred twenty-seven responses were received. All health professional groups are engaged in supporting access to prescriptions, using a number of different methods. GPs remain a predominant route for patients to access new prescriptions in working hours. However, nurses and, increasingly, primary care-based pharmacists are also actively contributing. However, only 42% (160) of Clinical Nurse Specialists and 27% (27) of Community Nurses were trained as prescribers. The majority (58% 142) of prescribing nurses and pharmacists did not have access to an electronic prescribing system. Satisfaction with access to shared patient records to facilitate medicines access was low: 39% (507) were either Not At All or only Slightly satisfied. Out-of-hours specialist cover was reported by less than half (49%; 656) and many General Practitioners and pharmacists lacked confidence advising about out-of-hours services. Respondents perceived there would be a significant improvement in pain control if access to medicines was greater. Those with shared records access reported significantly lower pain estimates for their caseload patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Action is required to support a greater number of nurses and pharmacists to prescribe end-of-life medicines. Solutions are also required to enable shared access to patient records across health professional groups. Coverage and awareness of out-of-hours services to access medicines needs to be improved.
CONTEXT: Hospital readmissions, frequent medication changes, and polypharmacy are common issues for hospice patients. It is important to consider if close monitoring of medications by pharmacists could help these patients avoid hospital readmissions.
OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this study were to determine the incidence and types of medication-related problems that contributed to hospital readmissions from hospice settings.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review was conducted from October 1, 2018 to January 31, 2020. Patients admitted from hospice settings (i.e. Home, ALF, LTCF) and who were seen by the palliative care teams at 9 Maryland and Washington DC MedStar hospitals were included. Demographic information was collected: age, gender, race, primary hospice diagnosis, prognosis determined by provider prior to hospice disposition, reason for readmission, and medication list at readmission. The primary outcomes were the incidence and types of medication-related problems. Secondary outcomes included patient characteristics associated with readmission, and classes/number of medications changed before readmission. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze data.
RESULTS: Seventy-five hospice patients were readmitted and seen by palliative care during the study period. Forty-three patients (57%) were found to have medication-related problems at readmission. The most common problem identified was needing additional drug therapy. Dose too low, dose too high, incorrect drugs, adverse drug reactions, and non-adherence were also identified. Additional reasons for readmission were: unanticipated new medical issue (n = 46, 61%) and uncontrolled symptoms (n = 34, 34%).
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that deprescribing practices possibly contributeto readmissions from hospice settings.
BACKGROUND: Antimicrobial use during end-of-life care of older adults with advanced cancer is prevalent. Factors influencing the decision to prescribe antimicrobials during end-of-life care are not well defined.
AIM: To evaluate factors influencing medicine subspecialists to prescribe intravenous and oral antimicrobials during end-of-life care of older adults with advanced cancer to guide an educational intervention.
DESIGN: 18-item single-center cross-sectional survey.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Inpatient medicine subspecialists in 2018.
RESULTS: Of 186 subspecialists surveyed, 67 (36%) responded. Most considered withholding antimicrobials at the time of clinical deterioration during hospitalization (n = 54/67, 81%), viewed the initiation of additional intravenous antimicrobials as escalation of care (n = 44/67, 66%), and believed decision-making should involve patients or surrogates and providers (n = 64/67, 96%). Fifty-one percent (n = 30/59) of respondents who conducted advance care planning did not discuss antimicrobials. Barriers to discussing end-of-life antimicrobials included the potential to overwhelm patients or families, challenges of withdrawing antimicrobials, and insufficient training.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the initiation of additional intravenous antimicrobials was viewed as escalation of care, antimicrobials were not routinely discussed during advance care planning. Educational interventions that promote recognition of antimicrobial-associated adverse events, incorporate antimicrobial use into advance care plans, and offer communication simulation training around the role of antimicrobials during end-of-life care are warranted.
BACKGROUND: GPs have a central role in decisions about prescribing anticipatory medications to help control symptoms at the end of life. Little is known about GPs' decision-making processes in prescribing anticipatory medications, how they discuss this with patients and families, or the subsequent use of prescribed drugs.
AIM: To explore GPs' decision-making processes in the prescribing and use of anticipatory medications for patients at the end of life.
DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative interview study with GPs working in one English county.
METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 13 GPs. Interview transcripts were analysed inductively using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Three themes were constructed from the data: something we can do, getting the timing right, and delegating care while retaining responsibility. Anticipatory medications were a tangible intervention GPs felt they could offer patients approaching death (something we can do). The prescribing of anticipatory medications was recognised as a harbinger of death for patients and their families. Nevertheless, GPs preferred to discuss and prescribe anticipatory medications weeks before death was expected whenever possible (getting the timing right). After prescribing medications, GPs relied on nurses to assess when to administer drugs and keep them updated about their use (delegating care while retaining responsibility).
CONCLUSION: GPs view anticipatory medications as key to symptom management for patients at the end of life. The drugs are often presented as a clinical recommendation to ensure patients and families accept the prescription. GPs need regular access to nurses and rely on their skills to administer drugs appropriately. Patients' and families' experiences of anticipatory medications, and their preferences for involvement in decision making, warrant urgent investigation.
BACKGROUND: At the end of patients' lives, physicians sometimes provide medication with the explicit intention to hasten death. Physicians' assessment of such acts varies. We studied which characteristics are associated with physicians' classification of these acts.
METHODS: This study concerns a secondary analysis of a nationwide study on the practice of medical decision-making at the end of life. In 2015, attending physicians of a sample of deceased people (n=9,351) received a questionnaire about end-of-life care and decision-making. The response rate was 78%. We studied 851 cases in which physicians reported that the patient had died as a result of medication they had provided with the explicit intention to hasten death. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: If medication had been provided with the explicit intention to hasten death at the explicit request of the patient, physicians considered "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" the most appropriate term for their course of action in 82% of all cases, while 17% of physicians chose the term "palliative or terminal sedation". Physicians' classification of their act as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" was less likely when patients had a short (1-7 days) or very short (max. 24 hours) life expectancy. Furthermore, such classification was less likely when their act had involved the use of other medication than muscle relaxants. The limited number of cases in which patients had been provided with medication without an explicit patient request were never classified as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life".
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians rarely classify the provision of medication with the explicit intention of hastening death as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" when patients are in the dying phase and when they provide other medication than muscle relaxants. In these cases, acts are mostly classified as "palliative or terminal sedation". This suggests that the legal distinction between euthanasia and palliative care may not always be clear in clinical practice.
Objectives: Geriatric palliative care approaches support deprescribing of antihypertensives in older nursing home (NH) residents with limited life expectancy and/or advanced dementia (LLE/AD) who are intensely treated for hypertension (HTN), but information on real-world deprescribing patterns in this population is limited. We examined the incidence and factors associated with antihypertensive deprescribing.
Design: National, retrospective cohort study.
Setting and Participants: Older Veterans with LLE/AD and HTN admitted to VA NHs in fiscal years 2009-2015 with potential overtreatment of HTN at admission, defined as receiving at least 1 antihypertensive class of medications and mean daily systolic blood pressure (SBP) <120 mm Hg.
Measures: Deprescribing was defined as subsequent dose reduction or discontinuation of an antihypertensive for =7 days. Competing risk models assessed cumulative incidence and factors associated with deprescribing.
Results: Within our sample (n = 10,574), cumulative incidence of deprescribing at 30 days was 41%. Veterans with the greatest level of overtreatment (ie, multiple antihypertensives and SBP <100 mm Hg) had an increased likelihood (hazard ratio 1.75, 95% confidence interval 1.59, 1.93) of deprescribing vs those with the lowest level of overtreatment (ie, one antihypertensive and SBP =100 to <120 mm Hg). Several markers of poor prognosis (ie, recent weight loss, poor appetite, dehydration, dependence for activities of daily living, pain) and later admission year were associated with increased likelihood of deprescribing, whereas cardiovascular risk factors (ie, diabetes, congestive heart failure, obesity), shortness of breath, and admission source from another NH or home/assisted living setting (vs acute hospital) were associated with decreased likelihood.
Conclusions and Implications: Real-world deprescribing patterns of antihypertensives among NH residents with HTN and LLE/AD appear to reflect variation in recommendations for HTN treatment intensity and individualization of patient care in a population with potential overtreatment. Factors facilitating deprescribing included treatment intensity and markers of poor prognosis. Comparative effectiveness and safety studies are needed to guide clinical decisions around deprescribing and HTN management.
Use of medications of questionable benefitis common in end-of-life care. In order to effectively carry out deprescribing, it is important to gain insight into the perspectives of patients and their relatives. Thus, our objective was to explore perspectives on deprescribing among older adults with limited life expectancy and their relatives. We conducted semi-structured interviews with ten nursing home residents and nine relatives. Interviews were analysed using systematic text condensation. Four main themes were identified: "Medication as a necessity and to feel well", "Frailty as a barrier for taking responsibility", "Patient autonomy and faith in authority", and "A wish for being involved". Most participants had not considered the possibility of deprescribing but were open towards medication change if proposed by a health care professional. Most participants did not have in-depth knowledge about medication but would like to be informed or involved in decisions. The participants generally had faith in health care professionals despite limited contact. Our study implies that older adults with limited life expectancy and their relatives are generally interested in deprescribing activities; however, the initiative of deprescribing lies with the health care professionals.
BACKGROUND: Infections are common in terminally ill patients (pts), and although antibiotics are frequently prescribed, their benefit for symptom relief is not clear. Antimicrobials at the end of life (EOL) may increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance and Clostrioides difficile infection. Our aim was to determine the frequency of symptom occurrence at the EOL when comparing pts who did or did not receive antibiotics (AB+ or AB-).
METHODS: We reviewed electronic medical records of pts admitted to a palliative care unit of a quarternary care hospital between 01/09/2017 and 07/16/2017 and assessed antimicrobial use in the last 14 days of life. Differences in demographics and symptom control between AB+ and AB- pts were analyzed using chi-square analyses; p-values were computed using Mann-Whitney tests.
RESULTS: Of a total of 133 pts included, 90 (68%) received antimicrobials (AB+). The indication for antibiotics was documented in only 12% of pts. The AB+ and AB- groups were similar with respect to demographics, including sex, and Charleston Comorbidity Index except for age (p = 0.01) and race (p = 0.03). Documented infections were similar between AB+ and AB- groups, except urinary tract infections. No statistically significant differences were noted in documented symptoms including pain, dyspnea, fever, lethargy, and alteration of mental state or length of stay.
CONCLUSION: Our study did not show differences in frequencies of documented symptoms with use of antimicrobials at EOL. Antimicrobial stewardship programs and further research can help with developing EOL care antimicrobial guidelines supporting patients and providers through shared decision-making.
Patients frequently have comorbidities that when combined with their primary diagnosis qualifies the patient for hospice. Consequently, patients are at risk for polypharmacy due to the number of medications prescribed to treat both the underlying conditions and the related symptoms. Polypharmacy is associated with negative consequences, including increased risk for adverse drug events, drug-drug and drug-disease interactions, reduced functional status and falls, multiple geriatric syndromes, medication nonadherence, and increased mortality. Polypharmacy also increases the complexity of medication management for caregivers and contributes to the cost of prescription drugs for hospices and patients. Deprescribing or removing nonbeneficial or ineffective medications can reduce polypharmacy in hospice. We study medication possession ratios and rates of deprescribing of commonly prescribed but potentially nonbeneficial classes of medication using a large hospice pharmacy database. Prevalence of some classes of potentially inappropriate medications is high. We report possession ratios for 10 frequently prescribed classes, and, because death and prescription termination are competing events, we calculate prescription termination rates using Cumulative Incidence Functions. Median duration of antifungal and antiviral medications is brief (5 and 7 days, respectively), while statins and diabetes medications have slow discontinuance rates (median termination durations of 93 and 197 days). Almost all patients with a proton pump inhibitor prescription have the drug for their entire hospice stay. Data from this study identify those drug classes that are commonly deprescribed slowly, suggesting drug classes and diagnoses that hospices may wish to focus on more closely, as they act to limit polypharmacy and reduce prescription costs.
Background: Hospital clinicians have had to rapidly develop expertise in managing the clinical manifestations of COVID-19 including symptoms common at the end of life, such as breathlessness and agitation. There is limited evidence exploring whether end-of-life symptom control in this group requires new or adapted guidance.
Aim: To review whether prescribing for symptom control in patients dying with COVID-19 adhered to existing local guidance or whether there was deviation which may represent a need for revised guidance or specialist support in particular patient groups.
Design/setting: A retrospective review of the electronic patient record of 61 hospital inpatients referred to the specialist palliative care team with swab-confirmed COVID-19 who subsequently died over a 1-month period. Intubated patients were excluded.
Results: In all, 83% (40/48) of patients were prescribed opioids at a starting dose consistent with existing local guidelines. In seven of eight patients where higher doses were prescribed, this was on specialist palliative care team advice. Mean total opioid dose required in the last 24 h of life was 14 mg morphine subcutaneous equivalent, and mean total midazolam dose was 9.5 mg. For three patients in whom non-invasive ventilation was in place higher doses were used.
Conclusion: Prescription of end-of-life symptom control drugs for COVID-19 fell within the existing guidance when supported by specialist palliative care advice. While some patients may require increased doses, routine prescription of higher starting opioid and benzodiazepine doses beyond existing local guidance was not observed.
Context: Off-label and unlicensed use of drugs is a widespread practice in pediatric care due to the lack of specific efficacy and safety data and the absence of formulations adapted to the needs of these individuals. Pediatric patients with a life-limiting illness frequently receive drugs under these conditions, though no studies have established the prevalence of this practice.
Aim: to describe the prevalence, indications, and most common uses of off-label and unlicensed drugs in a pediatric palliative care unit.
Methods: A prospective, cross-sectional observational study carried out between January and October 2019.
Setting/participants: The study included all patients admitted to the pediatric palliative care unit for home hospitalization and with at least one prescribed drug treatment.
Results: eighty-five patients involving 1198 prescriptions were analyzed. A total of 39.6% were off-label and 12.9% were unlicensed. All received at least one off-label drug, with a median of 5 per patient (IQR = 3–7), and 81.2% received at least one unlicensed drug. A total of 36.1% of the prescriptions were considered off-label due to indication, 33.8% due to dosage, and 26.6% due to age. The main drugs used off-label were oral morphine, oral levetiracetam, inhaled albuterol, sublingual ondansetron, oral tizanidine, sublingual fentanyl, and oral diazepam. The main symptoms treated with off-label drugs were dyspnea, pain, and nausea/vomiting.
Conclusions: Over half of the prescriptions in this PPCU were off-label or unlicensed. Treatment indication was one of the main reasons for off-label use. Administration of compounded preparations was common in patients with a life-limiting illness.
The President of the United States has repeatedly touted hydroxychlororquine as a likely cure for COVID-19 and urged Americans to try it, stating at one of his media briefings, “What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? Take it” . A few others around the world have chimed in to promote one drug or another, this drug in combination with others, or their own favorite untested nostrums. This has led to drug hoarding, the inability of patients who actually need and benefit from certain drugs to access them, and serious side effects and even deaths from self-medication.
Purpose: We studied the prevalence of medications of questionable benefit in the last 6 months of life among older nursing home residents with and without dementia in Germany.
Methods: a retrospective cohort study was conducted on claims data from 67,328 deceased nursing home residents aged 65+ years who were admitted between 2010 and 2014. We analyzed prescription regimens of medications of questionable benefit in the 180–91-day period and the 90-day period prior to death for residents with dementia (n = 29,052) and without dementia (n = 38,276). Factors associated with new prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit prior to death were analyzed using logistic regression models among all nursing home residents and stratified by dementia.
Results: A higher proportion of nursing home residents with dementia were prescribed at least one medication of questionable benefit in the 180–91-day (29.6%) and 90-day (26.8%) periods prior to death, compared with residents without dementia (180–91 days, 22.8%; 90 days, 20.1%). Lipid-lowering agents were the most commonly prescribed medications. New prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit were more common among residents with dementia (9.8% vs. 8.7%). When excluding anti-dementia medication, new prescriptions of these medications were more common among residents without dementia (6.4% vs. 8.0%). The presence of dementia (odds ratio [OR] 1.40, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 1.32–1.48) and excessive polypharmacy were associated with new prescriptions of medications of questionable benefit prior to death (OR 4.74, 95%CI 4.15–5.42).
Conclusion: even when accounting for anti-dementia prescriptions, the prevalence of nursing home residents with dementia receiving medications of questionable benefit is considerable and may require further attention.
Purpose: To determine the use of avoidable medications in end-of-life patients living at home when they were moved from the general practice setting to the palliative medicine physician (T1) and before death (T2).
Methods: This retrospective longitudinal study describes the prevalence of end-of-life patients cared for at home between April 2016 and December 2018 receiving preventive and symptomatic drug treatments. Socio-demographic data, diagnosis and drug treatments for each patient were collected in a web-based Case Report Form.
Results: The study sample comprised 1565 end-of-life patients with a median age (25–75 percentile) of 79.8 (72.5–85.3 years). All patients were treated with symptomatic drugs, and there were significantly fewer patients from T1 to T2 with at least one preventive medication at end of life (92.1% and, 60.8%, p < 0.0001). There was a significant variability between the palliative care physicians in the mean numbers of avoidable preventive medication (1.5–3.9 at T1 and 0.4–2.7 at T2, p = 0.06) prescribed.
Conclusion: More than half end-of-life patients living at home still receive avoidable medications. Drug prescription needs to be improved and palliative care setting could have an important role in reducing potentially inappropriate prescriptions. Emphasizing the positive aspects of stopping medicines, shared criteria with de-prescribing guidelines for potentially inappropriate medication in end-of-life patients and multidisciplinary discussion with involvement of patient and family caregivers could be useful to rationalize drug therapy.
Les documentalistes sont des professionnels que les équipes soignantes croisent essentiellement au cours de leur formation initiale et de leur formation continue. Dans l’intervalle, au cours de leur carrière, les professionnels de santé voient peu de liens possibles à entretenir avec les documentalistes. Or, ceux-ci, grâce à leur analyse de l’information en soins palliatifs, sont une excellente ressource, tant pour les professionnels de santé que pour les patients. Cet article a pour objectif de décrire les bénéfices que peuvent tirer et les patients et les soignants d’une collaboration impliquant les documentalistes. Des pistes de réflexion sur des liens possibles sont également discutées.
Background: Increased awareness of the clinical course of nursing home residents with advanced dementia and advance care planning (ACP) has become the cornerstone of good palliative care.
Objective: The aim of our study is to describe changes in ACP in the form of physician treatment orders (PTOs), symptom prevalence and possible burdensome interventions among nursing home (NH) residents who died between 2004–2009 and 2010–2013
Methods: Retrospective study
Results: The number of PTOs regarding forgoing antibiotics or parenteral antibiotics, forgoing artificial nutrition or hydration or forgoing hospitalisation doubled between 2004–2009 and 2010–2013 (38.1% vs. 64.9%, p < 0.001; 40.0% vs. 81.7%, p < 0.001; 28.1% vs. 69.5%, p < 0.001, respectively). PTOs were also done significantly earlier in 2010–2013 than in 2004–2009. The prevalence of distressing symptoms and possible burdensome interventions remained unchanged, although the prevalence of consistency with the PTOs was high.
Conclusion: Despite the increased number of PTOs, this had little effect on symptom prevalence and possible burdensome interventions experienced by NH residents in the last days of life.