McIntyre C, McQuillan R, Bell C, Battistella M. American Journal of Kidney Diseases.2017 Nov;70(5):611-618.

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Polypharmacy in hemodialysis patients can result in adverse patient outcomes. Deprescribing tools can reduce polypharmacy, yet no method exists for an outpatient hemodialysis population.


Quality improvement study.

Setting & Participants:

240 patients in a tertiary-care outpatient hemodialysis unit.

Quality Improvement Plan:

We aimed to: (1) develop a deprescribing tool for target medications with poor evidence for efficacy and safety, (2) determine its effectiveness in decreasing polypharmacy, and (3) monitor patient safety and satisfaction.


The primary outcome was the proportion of target medications completely deprescribed after 4 weeks. Secondary outcomes were the proportion of target medications completely deprescribed after 6 months, average number of medications per patient before and after deprescription, and proportion of successful deprescriptions for each target medication.


Number of medications deprescribed at 4 weeks and 6 months. Patient safety and satisfaction were monitored using drug-specific monitoring parameters.


A deprescribing tool for specific medications was developed and implemented in the hemodialysis unit. 5 medication classes were selected: quinine, diuretics, α1-blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins). All 240 patients in the unit were screened using the deprescribing tool. There were 171 of 240 (71%) patients prescribed at least 1 of the 5 target medications, and after applying the tool, 35 of 40 (88%) eligible patients had the medications deprescribed. There were 31 of 40 (78%) target medications completely deprescribed. 6 months after the study, only 5 of 31 (16%) medications discontinued were represcribed. At the end of the study, 57% of patients were taking fewer medications than at baseline. No adverse events were observed.


Single-center study that relied on patient self-reporting of medication use and adherence to our recommendations.


Deprescribing tools can be applied successfully in an outpatient hemodialysis unit to reduce polypharmacy while maintaining patient safety and satisfaction.