Prescription errors usually make the news when someone gets sick or hurt by mistake. But, now more doctors are choosing to prescribe several medications in unexpected ways.
Barbara McDonald says she suffered for decades from severe inner ear pain. It wasn't until her doctor treated her ear with eye medication that she got relief.
Dr. William Portnoy is an ear, nose, and throat specialist. For years, he's been prescribing an FDA-approved eye medication called Tobradex for ear infections. For patients like Barbara, the results have been dramatic. Dr. Portnoy also uses the eye drops in the nose to treat polyps.
The concept is called "off-label use." It's when the FDA approves the drug for a specific treatment, but then doctors prescribe the same drug for a different condition. Researchers in clinical trials are using Botox off-label to treat migraines. Some podiatrists are also using drugs like Restalin off-label to treat foot pain. Doctors say they inject the wrinkle filler into the foot to create a cushion and stop the pain.
Off-label drugs haven't been tested or studied for alternative use, but the FDA does consider off-label prescriptions to be an acceptable practice. But, many insurance companies do not cover medicine when it's prescribed off-label.