A deeper battle to deprescribe medications for cancer patients undergoing intravenous chemotherapy is necessary, researchers say.

The more complicated a daily medication regimen for patients older than 65, the greater their risk for hospitalization during cancer treatment, found Ginah Nightingale, PharmD, and colleagues from Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

The investigators compared baseline data from hospitalization rates in the six months leading up to the start of chemotherapy to rates of hospitalization after chemotherapy. In seniors who had breast, prostate, or lung cancer, the likelihood of hospitalization increased along with the number of medications taken prior to cancer treatment. 

In patients with lung cancer, for example, those taking between five and nine medications prior to chemotherapy treatments had a 42% higher rate of hospitalization. Seniors taking 10 to 14 medications had a 75% increase, and those taking more than 15 medications prior to chemotherapy had a 114% higher rate compared to patients taking fewer than five medicines. 

“The question is whether we can work with patients and their multiple healthcare providers to de-prescribe medicines that might no longer be essential and may interfere with their cancer care,” concluded Nightingale.

Colleague Andrew Chapman, D.O., acknowledged the difficulties of juggling this complex care situation. 

“This is especially true when cancer treatment is combined with pre-existing conditions,” he said.

The study was published Friday in the Journal of Geriatric Oncology.