Lack of knowledge fuels off-label prescribing

Off-label prescribing--a normal practice among physicians--is at least partially fueled by a lack of knowledge about a drug's approval status, a new survey says. Of the 457 physicians who completed the survey, more than 40 percent believed one or more drugs were approved for indications that had dubious or no supporting evidence. Unsurprisingly, physicians who had prescribed medications for a particular off-label use were more likely to believe the drug was approved for that indication. Overall, survey participants were only able to match a drug and its indication for about half of the 14 drugs listed.

While study authors acknowledge that off-label prescribing can lead to innovation in a clinical setting, they expressed concern that off-label prescribing is becoming the standard of care in offices where doctors are unaware of data on the drugs they prescribe as this poses safety and efficacy problems. "These results indicate an urgent need for effective methods of disseminating information to physicians about the level of evidence supporting off-label drug uses, with specific attention to common off-label uses known to be ineffective or to carry unacceptable risk of harm," the authors said. 

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