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Do You Still Need to Take Your Medications?

Over time, especially as you get older, some medications may become unnecessary or may begin to cause harm. A medication prescribed to you several years ago may no longer be needed, it may not work for you anymore, or it may cause side effects. Deprescribing is the gradual process of removing or lowering the doses of medications you no longer need to take. The goal of deprescribing is to improve your overall health and quality of life by taking fewer medications. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you stop taking any medications.

Who is deprescribing for?
As you get older, you may be prescribed more medications, which can increase your risk for side effects or result in harmful interactions between medications. This becomes especially important if you are over 65 years of age. Anyone who is concerned about the number of medications they are taking should talk to their pharmacist or doctor about deprescribing.

What are the potential benefits of deprescribing?

  • Decreased side effects
  • Decreased interactions with other medications
  • Decreased medication errors
  • Easier to keep track of fewer medications
  • Reduced costs

How does deprescribing work?
If you are concerned about the number of medications you are taking  then it may be time to meet with your pharmacist or doctor to talk about deprescribing. Prepare for this meeting by creating an up-to-date list of all medications you are taking. As an alternative, you can bring all of your medication bottles to your deprescribing meeting. Your pharmacist or doctor may then discuss the following with you:

  • Do your medications cause a side effect? For instance, are you experiencing muscle pain caused by taking a medication to lower your cholesterol?
  • Are all of your medications treating existing conditions? For example, are you taking a medication to ease stomach upset caused by acid reflux but you no longer have acid reflux?
  • Do your medications carry any extra risks? Some medications are known to cause more side effects in older patients.
  • Are there safer alternatives or lower doses that may be effective?
  • Is it safe to stop taking the medication(s)?

Your pharmacist or doctor can help you create a new medication plan and meet with you for follow-up visits to check your progress.

For more information about deprescribing, visit the following sites:

By Sandeep Devabhakthuni, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ Cardiology, Associate Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
Asha L. Tata, Pharm.D., BCPS, Internal Medicine Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, University of Maryland Medical Center