Assessing the Scope and Appropriateness of Prescribing Cascades

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2019 May;67(5):1023-1026. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15800. Epub 2019 Feb 12.


As originally defined, the term "prescribing cascade" describes a sequence of events that begins when an adverse drug event (ADE) occurs, is misinterpreted as a new medical condition, and a subsequent drug is then inadvertently prescribed to treat the new condition. We refine the definition to encompass both recognized and unrecognized ADEs because they can both contribute to problematic prescribing practices. In addition, we discuss that although prescribing cascades are most commonly viewed as problematic, they may be appropriate and therapeutically beneficial in certain clinical situations. We differentiate between appropriate and problematic prescribing cascades by adopting a similar approach to the framework proposed in the highly acclaimed King's Fund report Polypharmacy and Medicines Optimization. Practical considerations are also presented to aid clinicians in preventing the propagation of problematic prescribing cascades within their clinical practice. Providing new perspectives on the scope and appropriateness of the prescribing cascade concept is an important step in describing clinically relevant cascades and in encouraging safe prescribing practices. J Am Geriatr Soc 67:1023-1026, 2019.

Keywords: medication safety; older adults; polypharmacy; prescribing cascade.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Polypharmacy*