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Medication discontinuation is the ceasing of a medication treatment for a patient by either the clinician or the patient themself.[1][2] When initiated by the clinician, it is known as deprescribing.[3] Medication discontinuation is an important medical practice that may be motivated by a number of reasons:[4][3]

Unlike the prescribing of medications, appropriate discontinuation has not attracted nearly as much attention or interest.[6]


End-of-life careEdit

Medications may be stopped in the context of end-of-life care, such as medications that may affect risk factors for future disease. Medications that may be stopped as part of discussions about end-of-life care include antihypertensives, medications for diabetes, and drugs for high cholesterol.[5]

Life limiting conditionsEdit

For people with a life limiting condition such as a dementia, it is important to consider when to discontinue medications used to prevent future serious events. The Medication Appropriateness Tool for Comorbid Health conditions during Dementia (MATCH-D) provides guidance for clinicians and consumers on how to manage medications.[7].


Drug discontinuation may cause rebound effects (return of the symptoms the drug relieved, and that, to a degree stronger than they were before treatment first began) and withdrawal syndromes (symptoms caused by the discontinuation by the drug itself).

Drug discontinuation may be difficult to adjust to, owing to the long term use and the symbolism associated with ceasing medications, such as the decision to stop chemotherapy.[5]

Recent research (Nixon & Vendelø, 2016) shows that General Practitioners (GPs) who actively consider discontinuation, are reluctant to do so, as they experience that the safest decision is to continue prescriptions, rather than discontinue them. In part this is due to the ambiguity about the appropriateness of discontinuing medication. The clinical guidelines available to GPs do not encourage discontinuation of medication, and thus, they offer GPs a weak frame for discontinuation.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Raebel, Marsha A.; Schmittdiel, Julie; Karter, Andrew J.; Konieczny, Jennifer L.; Steiner, John F. (Aug 2013). "Standardizing Terminology and Definitions of Medication Adherence and Persistence in Research employing Electronic Databases". Medical Care. 51 (8 0 3): S11–S21. doi:10.1097/MLR.0b013e31829b1d2a. PMC 3727405. PMID 23774515.
  2. ^ Abdullah-Koolmees, Heshu; Gardarsdottir, Helga; Yazir, Dilek; Stoker, Lennart J.; Vuyk, Judith; Egberts, Toine C. G.; Heerdink, Eibert R. (9 July 2015). "Medication Discontinuation in Patients After Discharge From a Psychiatric Hospital". Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 49 (10): 1085–1095. doi:10.1177/1060028015593763.
  3. ^ a b Linsky, Amy; Meterko, Mark; Stolzmann, Kelly; Simon, Steven R. (28 June 2017). "Supporting medication discontinuation: provider preferences for interventions to facilitate deprescribing". BMC Health Services Research. 17 (1). doi:10.1186/s12913-017-2391-0. PMC 5490086.
  4. ^ Nixon, Michael; Kousgaard, Marius Brostrøm (7 July 2016). "Organising medication discontinuation: a qualitative study exploring the views of general practitioners toward discontinuing statins". BMC Health Services Research. 16 (1). doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1495-2. PMC 4936268.
  5. ^ a b c Abel, Julian (July 2013). "Withdrawing life-extending drugs at the end of life". Prescriber. 24 (13–16): 17–20. doi:10.1002/psb.1083.
  6. ^ Bain, Kevin T.; Holmes, Holly M.; Beers, Mark H.; Maio, Vittorio; Handler, Steven M.; Pauker, Stephen G. (October 2008). "Discontinuing Medications: A Novel Approach for Revising the Prescribing Stage of the Medication-Use Process". Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 56 (10): 1946–1952. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.01916.x. PMC 3119470.
  7. ^ Page, A. T.; Potter, K.; Clifford, R.; McLachlan, A. J.; Etherton-Beer, C. (2016). "Medication appropriateness tool for co-morbid health conditions in dementia: Consensus recommendations from a multidisciplinary expert panel". Internal Medicine Journal. 46 (10): 1189–1197. doi:10.1111/imj.13215. PMC 5129475.