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Community prescribing for cancer patients at the end of life: a national study


Background Good end-of-life care is essential to ensure dignity and comfort in death. To our knowledge, there has not been a national population-based study in England of community prescribing of all drugs used in end-of-life care for patients with cancer.

Methods 57 632 people who died from malignant cancer in their own home or in a care home in 2017 in England were included in this study. National routinely collected data were used to examine community prescriptions dispensed for drugs for symptom control and anticipatory prescribing by key sociodemographic factors in the last 4 months of life.

Results 94% of people who died received drugs to control their symptoms and 65% received anticipatory prescribing. Prescribing increased for the symptom control drug group (53% to 75%) and the anticipatory prescribing group (4% to 52%) over the 4-month period to death.

Conclusions Most individuals who died of cancer in their own home or a care home were dispensed drugs commonly used to control symptoms at the end of life, as recommended by best-practice guidance. Lower prescribing activity was found for those who died in a care home, highlighting a potential need for improved end-of-life service planning.

  • terminal care
  • cancer

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data held by Public Health England can be requested using the Office for Data Release:

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