Inappropriate Prescriptions Waste Millions

In this case, prescription drugs that might cost as much as 20 U.S. dollars to 25 U.S. dollars a day were being widely used to treat problems for which they were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of those problems could have been addressed with generic medications costing one U.S. dollar a day, with better results and less risk of serious side effects.

The scientists examined the health conditions of 830 Oregon Medicaid patients – all of whom had been given one of the newer antipsychotic medications approved only for some of the most severe forms of mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. However, the researchers found that the vast majority of the people receiving one of these drugs did not have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the underlying mental health conditions for which the drugs had been approved.

Most people who received these "atypical antipsychotic" drugs, which are very powerful and have potentially severe side effects, had less serious mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder – or no psychiatric disorder other than insomnia.

The prescriptions were also often given at lower doses and for shorter time periods than anything that has been shown to be therapeutic, said Daniel Hartung, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice.

The medications were prescribed by primary care physicians and nurse practitioners and, to a lesser extent, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners.

"Some drug companies have been accused of encouraging and expanding the off-label use of drugs, and that may be where part of this misinformation is coming from," Hartung said. "That is an illegal practice, and some companies have been successfully sued on that basis. Regardless of what is causing this, it is a serious concern, both for ensuring resources are used judiciously and protecting health care quality."

MEDICA.de; Source: Oregon State University