CORVALLIS, Ore. A recent study in Oregon suggests that drugs designed for treating the most severe mental illnesses are often prescribed at inappropriately low doses and at considerable expense, for use in conditions where their benefit has not been established.
In this case, prescription drugs that might cost as much as $20 to $25 a day were being widely used to treat problems for which they were not FDA-approved. Some of those problems could have been addressed with generic medications costing $1 a day, with better results and less risk of serious side effects.
This is a reflection of widespread use of medications for "off-label" uses that have not been carefully considered or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, researchers said, some of which are unnecessarily raising medical costs and reducing the effectiveness of health care.
The research was done by scientists in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, and Oregon Health and Science University. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, and funded by the National Institutes of Health.
"It's legal for a physician to prescribe a medication for something other than its FDA-approved uses, and based on good studies or clinical judgment it may be justified," said Daniel Hartung, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at OSU. "However, the approved uses are usually a pretty good proxy for real, proven effectiveness. And if in fact drugs are being used inappropriately, it not only can be very expensive but also pose an unnecessary health risk."
Both of those problems were found in this study.
In this case, the health conditions of 830 Oregon Medicaid patients were examined all of whom had been given one of the newer antipsychotic medications approved only for some of the most severe forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However,
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Oregon State University