Importance: How clinicians communicate about deprescribing, the structured process of reducing or stopping unnecessary, potentially harmful, or goal-discordant medicines, may be associated with the extent to which older adults are willing to do it. Objective: To examine older adults' preferences regarding different rationales a clinician may use to explain why a patient should stop an unnecessary or potentially harmful medication. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional survey study was conducted from March 25 to April 19, 2020, among a nationally representative, probability-based online survey panel (KnowledgePanel). KnowledgePanel members aged 65 years and older were recruited by random digit dialing and address-based sampling. Data were analyzed from May 4 to July 8, 2020. Exposures: The survey presented 2 vignettes involving hypothetical older adults. One described a statin being used for primary prevention by a person with functional impairment and polypharmacy. The second described a sedative-hypnotic, such as zolpidem, being used for insomnia by a person with good functional status. Main Outcomes and Measures: After each vignette, participants expressed preferences using a best-worst scaling method for 7 different phrases a clinician may use to explain why they should reduce or stop the medication. Conditional logistic regression was used to quantify respondents' relative preferences. Results: A total of 1193 KnowledgePanel members were invited, and 835 respondents (70.0%) completed the survey. The mean (SD) age was 73 (6) years, 414 (49.6%) were women, and 671 (80.4%) self-identified as White individuals. A total of 496 respondents (59.8%) had ever used a statin, and 124 respondents (14.9%) had ever used a sedative-hypnotic. For both medications, the most preferred phrase to explain deprescribing focused on the risk of side effects. For statins, this phrase was 5.8-fold (95% CI, 5.3-6.3) more preferred than the least preferred option, which focused on the effort (treatment burden) involved in taking the medicine. For sedative-hypnotics, the phrase about side effects was 8.6-fold (95% CI, 7.9-9.5) more preferred over the least preferred option, "This medicine is unlikely to help you function better." Conclusions and Relevance: These findings suggest that among older adults, the most preferred rationale for deprescribing both preventive and symptom-relief medicines focused on the risk of side effects. These results could be used to inform clinical practice and improve effective communications around deprescribing in older adults..
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