J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021 Oct 20. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17493. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Given limited life expectancy of nursing home (NH) residents, harms of continuing beta-blockers (BBs) may outweigh clinical benefits. Our objective was to describe beta-blocker discontinuation for NH residents during the last year of life, and identify characteristics associated with earlier discontinuation.
METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study that included all long-stay residents in fee-for-service Medicare who died in 2016 and were prescribed oral BBs 1 year before death. Beta-blocker discontinuation was defined as a gap in medication on hand for ≥45 days per Medicare Part D claims, measured from the last date drug was on hand. Comorbidities were obtained from Chronic Condition Warehouse, and other characteristics from the Minimum Data Set. Kaplan-Meier curves were used to describe time to first discontinuation. Findings were stratified by cardiac diagnoses, perceived life expectancy of <6 months, or elevated mortality index.
RESULTS: Eighty-eight thousand two hundred and eighty-four residents were prescribed ≥1 daily BB 12 months before death. Mean age was 84.1 years and 69.2% were female. Of these, 60,573 residents (68.6%) remained on a BB in the last 45 days of life, and 57,880 residents (65.6%) had ≥1 cardiac diagnosis. Only 5239 residents (5.9%) had elevated mortality index, whereas 16,798 residents (19.0%) had perceived poor prognosis. In the last year of life, there was no difference in beta-blocker discontinuation pattern between residents with and without cardiac diagnoses. Residents with perceived poor prognosis and elevated mortality index discontinued BBs earlier. For example, mean time until discontinuation among residents with poor perceived prognosis was 245 versus 279 days in residents without such prognosis (p < 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS: BBs are commonly prescribed to NH residents in the final year of life. Overall, discontinuation occurs earlier in residents for whom clinicians perceive limited life expectancy, suggesting that improved prognostication may offer an important opportunity to reduce polypharmacy toward end of life.