A systematic review of the emerging definition of 'deprescribing' with network analysis

implications for future research and clinical practice

Emily Reeve, Danijela Gnjidic, Janet Long, Sarah Hilmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

189 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS: The aim of this study was to identify what definitions have been published for the term 'deprescribing', and determine whether a unifying definition could be reached. A secondary aim was to uncover patterns between the published definitions which could explain any variation.

METHODS: Systematic literature searches were performed (earliest records to February 2014) in MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Informit, Scopus and Google Scholar. The terms deprescrib* or de-prescrib* were employed as a keyword search in all fields. Conventional content analysis and word frequencies were used to identify characteristics of the definitions. Network analysis was conducted to visualize characteristic distribution across authors and articles.

RESULTS: Following removal of duplicates, 231 articles were retrieved, 37 of which included a definition. Eight characteristics of the definitions were identified: use of the term stop/withdraw/cease/discontinue (35 articles), aspect of prescribing included e.g. long term therapy/inappropriate medications (n = 18), use of the term 'process' or 'structured' (n = 13), withdrawal is planned/supervised/judicious (n = 11), involving multiple steps (n = 7), includes dose reduction/substitution (n = 7), desired goals/outcomes described (n = 5) and involves tapering (n = 4). Network analysis did not reveal patterns responsible for variations in previously used definitions.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that there is lack of consensus on the definition of deprescribing. This article proposes the following definition: 'Deprescribing is the process of withdrawal of an inappropriate medication, supervised by a health care professional with the goal of managing polypharmacy and improving outcomes'. This definition has not yet been externally validated and further work is required to develop an internationally accepted and appropriate definition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1254-1268
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • deprescribing
  • health care definitions
  • Polypharmacy
  • inappropriate medication use
  • network analysis
  • polypharmacy

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