Paul Holmes 15 Jan 2007 // 12:00AM GMT
U.S. adults are either divided or ambivalent when it comes to the issue of off-label prescription drug use, according to the latest Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Healthcare Poll. While it is legal for doctors to prescribe prescription drugs for diseases other than those for which they have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are strict rules governing the marketing of a drug for treatment of a disease for which it hasn’t been approved. About one-third (27 percent)of adults say that prescribing drugs off-label should be allowed, while one-third say in most cases, the risks of doing so outweigh the benefits. Half (50 percent) of all adults incorrectly believe that once a drug is approved, a doctor can prescribe it only for the diseases for which it has been approved by the FDA, and another quarter (25 percent) are unsure. Nearly half (48 percent) think that doctors should not be allowed to prescribe drugs for off-label uses and even more (69 percent) think drug companies should not be allowed to encourage off-label use. However, a plurality (55 percent) agrees that if doctors aren’t allowed to prescribe freely, it will be much more difficult to find new and innovative ways to treat diseases. Approximately one in three adults (31 percent) believes that in most cases, the benefits of off-label prescription drug use outweigh the risks, but an equal proportion (34 percent) believes the opposite is true. The greatest level of agreement amongst adults in this poll is on the potential prohibition of off-label prescription drug use, except as part of a clinical trial, with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) agreeing with such restrictions.