What is Deprescribing?

Deprescribing is the planned and supervised process of dose reduction or stopping of medication that might be causing harm, or no longer be of benefit. Deprescribing is part of good prescribing – backing off when doses are too high, or stopping medications that are no longer needed.

Medications that were good then, might not be the best choice now.

Use of some medication, especially as people get older or more ill, can cause more harm than good. Optimizing medication through targeted deprescribing is a vital part of managing chronic conditions, avoiding adverse effects, and improving outcomes. The goal of deprescribing is to reduce medication burden and maintain or improve quality of life.

Sometimes, when reducing medications, adverse drug withdrawal events can happen. These are like side effects of stopping medications. It could be as simple as worsening pain while reducing dose of a pain medication. Or, it could be more serious. Some medications need to be reduced slowly to avoid withdrawal effects. Deprescribing is best done with the partnership of a health care provider.

Prescribers have asked for guidance and tools to help them reduce or stop drugs. This website houses and contains links to useful resources including guidelines developed through the Bruyère Research Institute, as well as plain language information for patients.

Plain language patient information pamphlets about deprescribing guidelines and the Canadian Deprescribing Network’s EMPOWER brochures are available here. Check out the Canadian Deprescribing Network for more patient information.

Conversations about deprescribing among prescribers, pharmacists, other health care professionals, and patients can be made easier when everyone is aware of the benefits and harms of medications, how these can change over time, and what to do about it.