Palliative Care: New medication list supports GPs managing terminal symptoms in people wishing to die at home

General practitioners (GPs) wishing to achieve optimum symptom control for terminally ill patients who choose to die at home now have access to a consensus-based medication list to assist their decision making.

The list of nine medications was developed by a panel of 12 experts, including GPs, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and palliative medicine specialists, under the direction of The Australian & New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM). It represents the latest addition to ANZSPM’s resources for GPs under the Federal Government funded initiative, Decision Assist, a program to support GPs and aged care workers to provide palliative care and advance care planning to older Australians.

ANZSPM’s Project Director, Professor Liz Reymond, who led the expert committee, said the new evidence-based medication list is appropriate for dying patients who are unable to swallow, and targets symptoms including pain, dyspnoea, nausea and vomiting, agitation and delirium, and respiratory secretions. Selection criteria for the medications to be considered in the list included cost, simplicity of use, ease of storage, safety and efficacy.

“More and more people are dying expected deaths and most people want to die at home,” said Dr Reymond, who is a palliative medicine specialist with a GP background.

“So if GPs are going to manage those people at home, they need to become familiar with medications most suitable for use in the terminal phase, to allow their patients and the person’s family to get the best outcome.”

Source: Palliative Care Australia Incorporated