New Jersey’s attorney general is working to suspend the license of a doctor who prescribed a lethal dose of fentanyl “off-label” to a patient. Fentanyl is actually meant to be prescribed to cancer patients who are suffering from bouts of pain despite the use of other opioids. While the patient did suffer from neck and back pain, she did not have cancer and ultimately overdosed on the powerful drug.
It was later discovered the doctor did not explain to the patient that fentanyl is an opioid, nor did the doctor explain the risks and hazards associated with the drug’s use. Additionally, the patient was prescribed twice the recommended starting dose. Unfortunately, it seems many practitioners are ignoring federal restrictions and are improperly prescribing fentanyl to patients who do not have cancer.
Are Drug Companies Encouraging Doctors to Give Off-Label Prescriptions?
Technically, doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for purposes outside of what they are normally approved for; a practice referred to as “off-label prescribing.” However, they are not allowed to endanger the welfare of the patients for whom they are giving off-label prescriptions to. When they do, it is a form of medical malpractice.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving the drugs prescribed by the doctor. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires drug companies to specify the indented use of prescription drugs to the FDA. That said, it’s illegal for drug companies to promote a drug for uses that aren’t listed on the FDA-approved label.
However, the fact that doctors can give off-label prescriptions to their patients creates a loophole. As such, many drug manufacturing companies aggressively pursue doctors who are willing to promote off-label uses. An investigation in Connecticut found a drug company that sold fentanyl products set unrealistic sale quotas for its drug representatives and pushed them to sell larger prescription quantities at higher doses. Many fentanyl companies market the drugs to doctors who do not even treat cancer patients or give the doctors “kick-backs” in order to encourage sales.
While some off-label prescriptions can treat patient conditions, doctors must be more careful when giving them, especially when it comes to pain medication.
Spevack Law Firm is a New Jersey personal injury law firm that helps those who have been victims of medical malpractice in the Teaneck, New Brunswick and Iselin areas.