Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are commonly prescribed agents for hypertension that can cause peripheral edema. A prescribing cascade occurs when the edema is misinterpreted as a new medical condition and a diuretic is subsequently prescribed to treat the edema. The extent to which this prescribing cascade occurs at a population level is not well understood..
..Individuals who were newly dispensed a CCB had a higher cumulative incidence at 90 days of being dispensed a loop diuretic than individuals in both control groups (1.4% vs 0.7% and 0.5%, P < .001). After adjustment, individuals who were newly dispensed a CCB had increased relative rates of being dispensed a loop diuretic compared with individuals who were newly dispensed an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin II receptor blocker (HR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.38-2.05 in the first 30 days after index [days 1-30]; 2.26; 95% CI, 1.76-2.92 in the subsequent 30 days [days 31-60]; and 2.40; 95% CI, 1.84-3.13 in the third month of follow-up [days 61-90]) and individuals who were newly dispensed unrelated medications (HR, 2.51; 95% CI, 2.13-2.96 for 1-30 days after index; 2.99; 95% CI, 2.43-3.69 for 31-60 days after index; and 3.89; 95% CI, 3.11-4.87 for 61-90 days after index). This association persisted, although slightly attenuated, from 90 days to up to 1 year of follow-up and when restricted to a subgroup of individuals who were newly dispensed amlodipine.
Conclusions and Relevance Many older adults with hypertension who are newly dispensed a CCB subsequently receive a loop diuretic. Given how widely CCBs are prescribed, interventions are needed to raise clinicians’ awareness of this common prescribing cascade to reduce the prescribing of potentially unnecessary medications that may cause harm.