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Indian J Palliat Care. 2019 Jan-Mar;25(1):124-126. doi: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_96_18.

The Use of Antidiabetic, Antihypertensive, and Lipid-lowering Medications in the Elderly Dying with Advanced Cancer.

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King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Kasr Alaini Center of Clinical Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.



Maintenance of medications that are unconducive to the quality of life is difficult to justify in dying terminally-ill cancer patients.


We aimed at determining the prevalence of administering antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and lipid-lowering medications to elderly patients dying with cancer.


We reviewed the medical records of patients above 60 years of age with advanced cancer who died in a palliative care unit. The collected data included the use of antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and lipid-lowering medications during the last week of life.


Of 103 patients, 51.5% were female and the median age was 69 years. The most common cancers included gastrointestinal (40.8%), gynecological (13.6%), and head and neck (12.6%). All patients had advanced cancer and 59.2% had hypertension, 52.4% had diabetes mellitus, and 19.4% had dyslipidemia. During their last week of life, 38.8% received antidiabetic, 23.3% received antihypertensive, and 3.9% received lipid-lowering agents. The data showed that 68.5% of people with diabetes received antidiabetic medications, 37.7% of hypertensive patients received antihypertensive medications, and 20% of dyslipidemics received lipid-lowering agents. Hypoglycemia was reported in 7.5% of patients receiving antidiabetic drugs, while hypotension was reported in 66.7% of patients receiving antihypertensive agents.


Many elderly patients dying with advanced cancer in a palliative care unit were maintained on medications for chronic conditions until the very late stages of their lives. For such imminently dying patients, benefits of such medications are unlikely and burdens are possible. Further research is needed to explore physicians' justifications, if any, for maintaining such patients on apparently futile medications.


Cancer; Saudi Arabia; dying; futile medications; palliative care

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