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Briefcase: Off-Label Drug Prescriptions

Guest Assistant Professor David Kwok.


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Doctors can prescribe drugs for any purpose, even for conditions for which the manufacturer has not received approval. Assistant Professor David Kwok, with The UH Law Center, teaches and writes about social science and the law. He recently discussed what influences off-label prescribing.

"Physicians sometimes learn of new uses for existing drugs. They may learn that a government-approved epilepsy drug, for example, also provides pain relief, almost like a side-effect," Kwok said. "Because the law allows off-label prescribing, the medicine now can fulfill a second purpose. And it serves as additional profits for the drug company."

Assistant Professor Kwok said there are ways a patient avoid risks associated with off-label medications. "Read the drug label," he said. "If the label does not match what your doctor told you, ask why she believes this off-label use is best. It may also be helpful to seek a second opinion from another physician."