Marketing Drugs For Off Label

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In the United States, a drug can only be advertised legally after being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once attaining at least one FDA-approved use, physicians can prescribe a drug for other unapproved uses, based on their clinical judgment; this is referred to as “off-label use” (McCambridge, 2008). In general, marketing drugs for off-label uses is illegal; however, pharmaceutical companies have gone to various lengths within their legal rights to accomplish exactly that. For example, Vedula (2012) notes that FDA guidelines state pharmaceutical companies can use peer-reviewed articles to publicize evidence of a drug’s effectiveness for off-label uses, as long as a number of conditions are met—perhaps the most essential of which is that “the information disseminated must not be false or misleading.” However, Vedula continues, there is no unyielding regulation that all research findings have to be published. Therefore, a company can still choose to selectively disseminate favorable findings. His article concludes that there is now a copious amount of evidence that suggests selective reporting of study results, based on the strength and direction of findings, is performed extensively by the pharmaceutical industry. The fruits of this devious labor are plain to see. For instance, Tamiflu is a drug that governments around the world have spent billions of dollars amassing—almost in a panic—in hopes that it could alleviate the morbidity influenza (Jefferson
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