The Dangers of Off-label Drug Use

Connecticut patients are sometimes prescribed drugs to treat medical conditions that are not listed on the package inserts. Off-label drug use is a common practice, and some studies have found that 20 percent of prescriptions are written to treat a condition that the drug is not recommended for. Some off-label drug use is evidence-based, but in some cases there is a lack of any scientific evidence for alternative use.

Whether a drug is prescribed for a condition that it is not intended to treat, a child is prescribed a drug that is only intended for adults or a non-approved dosage of a drug is prescribed, off-label drug use can have dangerous side effects. A study by Massachusetts researchers found that adverse drug events occur at a 54 percent higher rate when a drug is prescribed for an off-label use that is not backed by strong scientific evidence.

One of the most common and dangerous off-label drug prescriptions is for quinine. Though quinine has been proven to treat malaria, doctors will sometimes prescribe the drug to treat the pain that is caused by restless leg syndrome. Because quinine has many adverse side effects, it is dangerous to prescribe the drug for a chronic condition. People with Alzheimer’s disease are frequently prescribed off-label drugs, because none of the drugs that have been approved to treat the disease ease the behavioral symptoms.

A prescription error made by a doctor or a pharmacist can lead to serious harm and require extensive medical treatment. Those who have been the victims of these types of mistakes may want to obtain the advice of counsel as to whether any recourse exists for seeking compensation from the negligent practitioner.