Deprescribing admission medication at a UK teaching hospital; a report on quantity and nature of activity

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Background: Deprescribing medication may be in response to an adverse clinical trigger (reactive) or if future gains are unlikely to outweigh future harms (proactive). A hospital admission may present an opportunity for deprescribing, however current practice is poorly understood.

Objective: To quantify and describe the nature of deprescribing in a UK teaching hospital.

Method: Prescribing and discontinuation data for admission medication from a hospital’s electronic prescribing system were extracted over 4 weeks. The rationale for discontinuation of a random sample of 200 was determined using medical records. This informed categorisation of deprescribing activity by clinicians into ‘proactive’ or ‘reactive’. Data were extrapolated to estimate the proportion of admission medications deprescribed and the proportion which were reactive and proactive.

Results: From 24,552 admission medicines, 977 discontinuations were recorded. Of the 200 discontinuations sampled for review, only 44 (22.0%) were confirmed deprescribing activities; categorised into 7 (15.9%) proactive and 37 (84.1%) reactive. Extrapolation yielded 0.6% (95% CI 0.5–0.7%) of all admission medications deprescribed.

Conclusion: Limited deprescribing activity, dominated by reactive behaviour was identified, suggesting prescribers require a clinical trigger to prompt deprescribing. There may be scope for increasing proactive deprescribing in hospital, however the extent to which this is feasible is unknown.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991–996
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number5
Early online date20 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Deprescribing
  • Discontinuation
  • Inappropriate medication
  • Medication review
  • Medicines optimisation
  • Polypharmacy
  • United Kingdom

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