Washington Law Review


The Law, Economics, and Medicine of Off-Label Prescribing

March 21, 2016 | 91 Wash. L. Rev. 119

Abstract: There is a major dissonance in the current structure of regulating new drugs that have more than one medical indication. Physicians are authorized to prescribe these drugs for all indications including those beyond their approved purposes. However, product manufacturers are expressly prohibited from marketing or promoting their drugs for any purpose other than those which have been specifically indicated. While prescribing physicians are encouraged to gain medical information on any additional indications, they cannot obtain it from one of its most likely sources: the drug’s supplier.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent opinion in United States v. Caronia has challenged this regulatory structure. For the three states in the Second Circuit, although not the rest of the country, the FDA’s regulations prohibiting promotion of non-approved indications have been restricted.

In this Article, we review the legal, economic, and medical aspects of the FDA’s current regulatory approach, and explore the likely consequences of a widespread adoption of the Caronia rule.

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