Organising medication discontinuation: a qualitative study exploring the views of general practitioners toward discontinuing statins

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Background: Discontinuing medications is a complex decision making process and an important medical practice. It is a tool in reducing polypharmacy, reducing health system expenditure and improving patient quality of life. Few studies have looked at how general practitioners (GPs) discontinue a medication, in agreement with the patients, from a professional perspective. Three research questions were examined in this study: when does medication discontinuation occur in general practice, how is discontinuing medication handled in the GP’s practice and how do GPs make decisions about discontinuing medication?

Methods: Twenty four GPs were interviewed using a maximum variation sample strategy. Participant observations were done in three general practices, for one day each, totalling approximately 30 consultations.

Results: The results show that different discontinuation cues (related to the type of consultation, medical records and the patient) create situations of dissonance that can lead to the GP considering the option of discontinuation. We also show that there is a lot of ambiguity in situations of discontinuing and that some GPs trialled discontinuing as means of generating more information that could be used to deal with the ambiguity.

Conclusions: We conclude that the practice of discontinuation should be conceptualised as a continually evaluative process and one that requires sustained reflection through a culture of systematically scheduled check-ups, routinely eliciting the patient’s experience of taking drugs and trialling discontinuation. Some policy recommendations are offered including supporting GPs with lists or handbooks that directly address discontinuation and by developing more person centred clinical guidelines that discuss discontinuation more explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Article number226
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016

ID: 164384313