Reports of Dangerous Side Effects from Off-Label Use of Drugs

Some doctors in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada prescribe medications to treat diseases without having evidence supporting the notion that these drugs are effective for that kind of treatment. Health Canada is being accused of knowing whether medications are prescribed off-label in the case of reported side effects but not sharing this information to the public. Patients who are subjected to medication errors that are caused by being prescribed drugs that are dangerous to them have filed hundreds of reports regarding these off-label prescriptions, some with fatal side effects.

The term “off-label” refers to prescription drugs that are prescribed for a condition or demographic for whom the drug has not been approved. Health Canada has received hundreds of reports regarding popular anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory and other drugs consumed in Canada that have resulted in serious side effects. These reports include information about patients who have died from heart attacks, who were inflicted with conditions that cause symptoms similar to lupus and who developed a kidney cyst and other disorders after taking these drugs for uses that were not approved.

Health Canada collects information regarding prescriptions, but it removes any mention of prescriptions being used off-label before making these reports available to the public. It has collected such information for the last six years, but cited technical limitations related to its ability to release the database to the public. Additionally, a regulator for Health Canada stated that the agency has not conducted any reviews of the aforementioned cases and that there are not presently any safety issues that require further assessment.

Individuals who suffer injuries from prescription drugs may wonder whether they can receive compensation for these injuries. They may opt to discuss the specific side effects that they have encountered and whether they were made aware of these potential consequences with a personal injury lawyer.

Source: Metro News, “Dangers of off-label drug use kept secret by Health Canada”, June 26, 2014

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