More seniors have stopped taking some medications, possible evidence that efforts to stem overprescribing may be working.

Data culled from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found 80% of adults ages 50 to 80 were willing to stop taking one or more drugs if their healthcare provider said it was possible. Those with a health problem or disability limiting daily activities were more likely to say they take too many medications.

Many observers link the pandemic’s end to shifting attitudes about medicine.

“The more involved families have become since, the fewer medications are prescribed,” says Michael Samarkos, regional director of clinical and consultant services for Guardian Pharmacy of Orlando and Tampa. 

“The pandemic accelerated the deprescribing trend by highlighting vulnerabilities in healthcare systems,” adds Joe Kramer, vice president of sales for Geri-Care Pharmaceuticals. “The crisis emphasized the importance of streamlined, patient-centered care, prompting a re-evaluation of medication use to prioritize patient well-being over excessive prescriptions.”

The pandemic “encouraged more acceptance to eliminate unnecessary medications, and fewer ‘touches’ for nurses or caregivers and lower risk of transmission of infection,” says Chad Worz, chief executive officer of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.

Still, pharmacists warn some deprescribing efforts might be risky.

“Some use deprescribing as a vehicle for cost reduction or as a barrier to access,” Worz says. “Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers are notorious for this.”

Kramer said it is key to strike the right balance between those two pressures, as well as resisting patients and families who are accustomed to long-standing prescriptions.

Erin Donatelli, VP of clinical and consulting services at Remedi SeniorCare, adds this precaution: Avoid applying blanket reductions in certain medication classes across the board, or otherwise risk exposing yourself to unintended consequences.