BACKGROUND: Long-term prescribing of anticholinergic medications (ACM) for antipsychotic-associated extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) is not recommended, yet is widely prevalent. Adverse effects of ACM include memory impairment, dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, urinary retention, and tachycardia, which can seriously impact quality of life. This quality improvement deprescription project sought to reduce chronic ACM use in patients with serious mental illness (SMI).
METHODS: Education directed at psychiatrists combined with clinical pharmacy support for deprescription was used to target clinically stable patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder with no EPS and ACM prescriptions of ≥6 months. Scales were used to assess anticholinergic adverse effects, memory impairment, and quality of life. ACMs were tapered and discontinued over 1 to 6 months.
RESULTS: More than 75% of targeted patients successfully tapered or discontinued ACM, which coincided with significant improvements in anticholinergic adverse effects, memory impairment, and quality of life. Approximately 10% of patients were restarted on ACM for re-emergent EPS.
CONCLUSIONS: For most clinically stable patients with SMI without EPS, our findings suggest that gradual deprescription of chronic ACM is clinically appropriate, well tolerated, and improves quality of life. A randomized trial could provide more definitive answers.