Polypharmacy is an increasing and global issue affecting primary care. Although sometimes appropriate, polypharmacy can also be problematic, leading to a range of adverse consequences. Deprescribing is the process of supervised withdrawal of an inappropriate medication and has the potential to reduce some of the problems associated with polypharmacy. It is a complex and sensitive process. We examine the issue of deprescribing from the perspective of primary care. Key steps in the deprescribing process are a review of medications and corresponding indications, consideration of harms, assessment of eligibility for discontinuation, prioritisation of medications and implementation of a stopping plan with appropriate monitoring. Patient involvement is a key feature of this process. Deprescribing should be considered in the context of end-of-life care and medication safety, but approaches are also required to identify other situations where deprescribing is appropriate. General practitioners are well positioned to facilitate deprescribing, usually through formal medication review, with decisions informed by a range of other healthcare professionals. Guidelines are available that help guide these processes. A range of studies have explored attitudes towards deprescribing; patients are generally supportive of the concept, although clinician views are varied. The successful implementation of deprescribing strategies still requires important patient and clinician barriers to be overcome, and clinical trial evidence of effectiveness and safety is essential.
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