Unlicensed uses for medication in a palliative care unit

Atkinson, C.V.; Kirkham, S.R.
March 1999
Palliative Medicine;1999, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p145
Academic Journal
The aim of this study was to review the extent of drug use for unlicensed purposes in a palliative care unit. We carried out a prospective study of all patients with advanced malignancy admitted to a 10-bed specialist palliative care unit over a 4-month period. Prescriptions were assessed and compared with licensed prescribing indications. Seventy-six patients were included in the study; 689 prescriptions were made using 84 drugs to treat 34 different symptoms. Fifteen per cent of prescribing events were for unlicensed indications. We conclude that drugs are frequently used in the palliative care setting for purposes unsupported by product licences, although usually backed by literature. These drugs are often prescribed for symptoms which are difficult to control.


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