Chicago patients beware: Off-label medication use can be hazardous

Medication is a common form of treatment for many illnesses and health complications Chicago patients suffer. While patients place their complete trust in doctors when it comes to prescription drugs, patients should consider asking a few questions before agreeing to take a medication their doctor has prescribed in order to avoid a possible medication error that could end up damaging their health even further.

Patients need to understand that it is common practice for physicians to prescribe drugs to treat illnesses that the drugs have not been approved to treat. Although this practice is not always dangerous, and doctors can legally prescribe medications for off-label purposes, doctors must still be careful when they do choose to prescribe medications for purposes that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Communication between doctors and patients is important. When it comes to off-label drug use, doctors should clearly explain why they are prescribing the drug, how it can benefit the patient, and what side effects have been associated with the medication.

Some popular off-label drugs include anticonvulsants, antimicrobials, morphine and antidepressants. About one out of five prescriptions is for off-label use, and almost 80 percent of children who are prescribed medications receive off-label drugs prior to being discharged from a medical facility.

Although medications can be helpful when it comes to treating a variety of illnesses, it is important that doctors always consider how a drug could interact with other medications their patients may be taking. With off-label drug use, it is also necessary that doctors understand how to prescribe appropriate doses in order to avoid negligent dosing errors that could harm patients. To avoid side effect injuries or fatal allergic reactions, doctors should properly monitor patients who are trying out a new medication.

Source: Medical Daily, “What you should know about off-label drug use,” Nikki Tucker, Aug. 6, 2012

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