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Off-label drug use common, but patients may not know they're taking them, Mayo finds
Date:8/6/2012

Aug. 6, 2012

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Many people have probably heard of off-label drug use, but they may not know when that applies to prescriptions they are taking, a Mayo Clinic analysis found. Off-label drug use occurs when a physician prescribes medication to treat a condition before that use has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In a newly published article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers pose and answer 10 questions about off-label drug use.

"Since the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the practice of medicine, off-label drug use has become very common," says lead author Christopher Wittich, M.D., internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic. "Health care providers and patients should educate themselves about off-label drugs to weigh the risks and benefits before a physician prescribes one or a patient takes one."

Some highlights from the article:

  • Off-label drug use is common. Within a group of commonly used medications, roughly 1 in 5 prescriptions were for an off-label use, a 2006 report found. Another study found that about 79 percent of children discharged from pediatric hospitals were taking at least one off-label medication.
  • Patients may not know when drugs they have been prescribed are being used off-label. No court decision has required that physicians must disclose, through informed consent, the off-label use of a drug, the authors say. The FDA makes clear that it doesn't regulate the practice of medicine and that the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 doesn't make physicians liable for off-label drug use, they note.
  • Off-label drug use can become the predominant treatment for a condition. For example, some antidepressants are not approved by the FDA as a treatment for neuropathic pain, yet some drugs in this class are considered a first-line treatment option.
  • Examples of widely practiced off-label drug use include
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Contact: Nick Hanson
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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