Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sham: Off Label Prescriptions, or Human Experimentation?

Recently a news report circulated about the practice of "off label" prescriptions. This happens when a doctor believes he or she knows something about the drug and your malady that the pharmaceutical company or FDA doesn't, and they decide to prescribe the drug for whatever it is that ails you--even though it wasn't developed for that purpose.

This recent news report came about because one out of four physicians in the USA continue to prescribe antidepressants for patients with low back pain, despite the fact that there is no evidence this is helpful. (Other than, of course, the patient feels better about their suffering; their attitude about the pain has been chemically-enhanced by antidepressants!)

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

“The review found no convincing evidence that antidepressants relieve back pain or depression more effectively than placebo,” the main author said. Nor did researchers find any difference in patients’ ability to function, whether receiving antidepressants or placebo.

There are a host of areas where physicians prescribe pharmaceutical drugs for purposes that they were not intended when they were developed. The FDA does not concern themselves with this issue, because once a drug has been proven safe through FDA approval, their responsibility has ended.

Personally, if my doctor prescribes a drug for something other than what it was intended to treat, I would want to do significant research on my own to find out what others in this "human experimentation process" have discovered about the combination.


1 comment:

Skinner said...

I’m an undergrad at the University of South Florida and I’m actually writing about how we should keep a set of humans set aside for only medical experimentation. It’s of course a satire but the idea, while inhumane, brings a good idea. We’re trying to subscribe medicines for people and the technology behind them is old. It takes at least ten years for a new product to hit shelves from the time it’s developed. That means that all the great drugs we have, are really drugs designed with old technology. Currently the only chance we have to get a drug made properly is a lot of research, animal testing, then clinical trials. We really don’t know exactly how our body works and there is no supplement to a living breathing human to test on. While I’m sure the example of antidepressants for back pain is, as simply as you put it, “the patient feels better about their suffering; their attitude about the pain has been chemically-enhanced by antidepressants,” that doesn’t mean that other drugs don’t have a positive effect when used in a manner that they were not indented for. Rightfully so, we should be able to trust our doctors and it is wrong for them to be making up their own ideas for what a drug should be used for.