"Off-Label" Drug Prescriptions May be Common

Off-label” drug use - or prescribing medications for unapproved uses - is a widespread practice among medical professionals, especially when it comes to antipsychotic drugs such as Seroquel and Abilify, according toa new study.

Researchers at McGill University in Canada examined health records of 50,823 patients treated by 113 doctors between January 2005 and December 2009. During that time period, the doctors prescribed 648 types of drugs, 11 percent of which were off-label. Furthermore, 80 percent of the prescriptions were made to treat ailments that the drug was not approved for, or lacked studies and/or scientific evidence to show their safety and efficacy.

Monitoring off-label drug useis an important way to reduce incidences of adverse side effects, according to the Montreal Gazette. In the 1990s, “fen-phen,” which was an unapproved combination of fenfluramine and phentermine that was prescribed by many doctors as an obesity treatment, was banned after it was found to be associated with heart damage.

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