Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website
Publication Briefs

Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: Effectiveness of Deprescribing Interventions for Community-Dwelling Older Adults

More than 40% of people in the United States age ≥ 65 years take five or more prescription medications on a regular basis to control or prevent disease symptoms and complications, and approximately half of older adults take one or more potentially inappropriate medications, which includes duplicative medications and those with known risks or without a clear indication. This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluated the effectiveness, comparative effectiveness, and harms of deprescribing interventions in community-dwelling persons aged 65 or older. Investigators searched OVID Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library from 1990 through February 2019 for controlled clinical trials comparing any deprescribing intervention to usual care or another intervention. Of 278 articles with a full text review, 38 low and medium risk of bias trials were included – 12 randomized controlled trials and 26 cluster randomized controlled trails. Primary outcomes were all-cause mortality, hospitalizations, health-related quality of life, and falls. The secondary outcome was the use of potentially inappropriate medications.


  • In community dwelling people age 65 years and older, medication deprescribing interventions may provide small reductions in mortality and use of potentially inappropriate medications.
  • Of the trials included in this review, 22 (low to moderate certainty of evidence) evaluated the effects of comprehensive medication review. Results suggest that such reviews may have reduced all-cause mortality but probably had little to no effect on falls, health-related quality of life, or hospitalizations. Nine of thirteen trials reported fewer inappropriate medications in the intervention group.
  • Twelve trials (6 low risk of bias, 6 medium risk) evaluated the effects of various educational initiatives and found that while they may reduce the use of inappropriate medications, the interventions had uncertain effects on quality of life and rates of hospitalizations and falls. Four trials (medium risk of bias) evaluated the effect of computer decision support interventions: two studies reported a significant reduction in inappropriate medications and two studies reported no effect.
  • No studies assessed the comparative effectiveness of the different deprescribing approaches.


  • Future research should include well-designed comparative effectiveness trials conducted in a variety of settings, employing a uniform set of outcome measures and including process evaluations to guide subsequent implementation of effective interventions.


  • This review was limited to the community setting; the effects of deprescribing for people in hospitals or long-term care facilities may differ.

This review was funded by HSR&D through its Evidence Synthesis Program (ESP). Drs. Bloomfield and Greer are part of HSR&D’s Center for Care Delivery and Outcomes Research (CCDOR), Minneapolis, MN; Dr. Linsky is with HSR&D’s Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR), Boston and Bedford, MA.

Bloomfield H, Greer N, Linsky A, et al. Deprescribing for Community Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine. August 20, 2020; Epub ahead of print.

Related Briefs

» next 44 Elder Care Briefs...

» next 172 Medication Briefs...

What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.