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      Adequate, questionable, and inadequate drug prescribing for older adults at the end of life: a European expert consensus

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          Clinical guidance is needed to initiate, continue, and discontinue drug treatments near the end of life.


          To identify drugs and drug classes most often adequate, questionable, or inadequate for older people at the end of life.


          Delphi consensus survey.


          Forty European experts in geriatrics, clinical pharmacology, and palliative medicine from 10 different countries. Panelists were asked to characterize drug classes as “often adequate,” “questionable,” or “often inadequate” for use in older adults aged 75 years or older with an estimated life expectancy of ≤ 3 months. We distinguished the continuation of a drug class that was previously prescribed from the initiation of a new drug. Consensus was considered achieved for a given drug or drug class if the level of agreement was ≥ 75%.


          The expert panel reached consensus on a set of 14 drug classes deemed as “often adequate,” 28 drug classes deemed “questionable,” and 10 drug classes deemed “often inadequate” for continuation during the last 3 months of life. Regarding the initiation of new drug treatments, the panel reached consensus on a set of 10 drug classes deemed “often adequate,” 23 drug classes deemed “questionable,” and 23 drug classes deemed “often inadequate”. Consensus remained unachieved for some very commonly prescribed drug treatments (e.g., proton-pump inhibitors, furosemide, haloperidol, olanzapine, zopiclone, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).


          In the absence of high-quality evidence from randomized clinical trials, these consensus-based criteria provide guidance to rationalize drug prescribing for older adults near the end of life.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1007/s00228-018-2507-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 44

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          STOPP/START criteria for potentially inappropriate prescribing in older people: version 2

          Purpose: screening tool of older people's prescriptions (STOPP) and screening tool to alert to right treatment (START) criteria were first published in 2008. Due to an expanding therapeutics evidence base, updating of the criteria was required. Methods: we reviewed the 2008 STOPP/START criteria to add new evidence-based criteria and remove any obsolete criteria. A thorough literature review was performed to reassess the evidence base of the 2008 criteria and the proposed new criteria. Nineteen experts from 13 European countries reviewed a new draft of STOPP & START criteria including proposed new criteria. These experts were also asked to propose additional criteria they considered important to include in the revised STOPP & START criteria and to highlight any criteria from the 2008 list they considered less important or lacking an evidence base. The revised list of criteria was then validated using the Delphi consensus methodology. Results: the expert panel agreed a final list of 114 criteria after two Delphi validation rounds, i.e. 80 STOPP criteria and 34 START criteria. This represents an overall 31% increase in STOPP/START criteria compared with version 1. Several new STOPP categories were created in version 2, namely antiplatelet/anticoagulant drugs, drugs affecting, or affected by, renal function and drugs that increase anticholinergic burden; new START categories include urogenital system drugs, analgesics and vaccines. Conclusion: STOPP/START version 2 criteria have been expanded and updated for the purpose of minimizing inappropriate prescribing in older people. These criteria are based on an up-to-date literature review and consensus validation among a European panel of experts.
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            Reducing inappropriate polypharmacy: the process of deprescribing.

            Inappropriate polypharmacy, especially in older people, imposes a substantial burden of adverse drug events, ill health, disability, hospitalization, and even death. The single most important predictor of inappropriate prescribing and risk of adverse drug events in older patients is the number of prescribed drugs. Deprescribing is the process of tapering or stopping drugs, aimed at minimizing polypharmacy and improving patient outcomes. Evidence of efficacy for deprescribing is emerging from randomized trials and observational studies. A deprescribing protocol is proposed comprising 5 steps: (1) ascertain all drugs the patient is currently taking and the reasons for each one; (2) consider overall risk of drug-induced harm in individual patients in determining the required intensity of deprescribing intervention; (3) assess each drug in regard to its current or future benefit potential compared with current or future harm or burden potential; (4) prioritize drugs for discontinuation that have the lowest benefit-harm ratio and lowest likelihood of adverse withdrawal reactions or disease rebound syndromes; and (5) implement a discontinuation regimen and monitor patients closely for improvement in outcomes or onset of adverse effects. Whereas patient and prescriber barriers to deprescribing exist, resources and strategies are available that facilitate deliberate yet judicious deprescribing and deserve wider application.
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              Appropriate prescribing in elderly people: how well can it be measured and optimised?

              Prescription of medicines is a fundamental component of the care of elderly people, and optimisation of drug prescribing for this group of patients has become an important public-health issue worldwide. Several characteristics of ageing and geriatric medicine affect medication prescribing for elderly people and render the selection of appropriate pharmacotherapy a challenging and complex process. In the first paper in this series we aim to define and categorise appropriate prescribing in elderly people, critically review the instruments that are available to measure it and discuss their predictive validity, critically review recent randomised controlled intervention studies that assessed the effect of optimisation strategies on the appropriateness of prescribing in elderly people, and suggest directions for future research and practice.

                Author and article information

                Eur J Clin Pharmacol
                Eur. J. Clin. Pharmacol
                European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                23 June 2018
                23 June 2018
                : 74
                : 10
                : 1333-1342
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0626, GRID grid.4714.6, Aging Research Center, , Karolinska Institutet, ; Tomtebodavägen 18A, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 1486 4131, GRID grid.411178.a, Centre de pharmacovigilance et de pharmaco-épidémiologie, , Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Limoges, ; Limoges, France
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2165 4861, GRID grid.9966.0, Faculté de Médecine, , Université de Limoges, ; Limoges, France
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0941 3192, GRID grid.8142.f, Department of Geriatrics, , Catholic University of Rome, ; Rome, Italy
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                Funded by: FundRef, Forskningsrådet om Hälsa, Arbetsliv och Välfärd;
                Award ID: 2014-4699
                Award Recipient :
                Pharmacoepidemiology and Prescription
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                © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018


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