A new drug is FDA approved and released on the market which is made to solve one medical issue, but also ends up helping in other ways. That’s generally a very good thing. That is, until the marketers get wind of it. One of the most common of these stories is Viagra. Pfizer was working on a drug to help with blood pressure and ended up with the little blue pill that solved men’s bedroom issues. Often these types of incidents end up for the better. However, there are potentially large risks involved when using a drug for something other than its intended use – even when it’s doctor prescribed.
One recent example of off-label drug use is the Low Testosterone therapy (Low T) craze. Low T therapy was first FDA approved as a way to treat men with hypogonadism, which affects the hormones developed in male genitalia. It didn’t take long for the pharmaceutical industry to figure out how to market “Low T” to every man over 40 who was grouchy or had lost a step to their 25 year old self. The resulting boom in the Low T industry (nearly $2B a year!) is now thought by many to be responsible for an increase of men experiencing heart attacks, strokes, and other circulatory problems as their slightly-worn ‘engines’ try to cope with an increased red blood cell count and thicker viscosity blood (known as polycythemia).
Off-label drug use is increasing, leading to more and more complications with prescription drug users. Off-label drug use means a medication is being used for something other than its originally intended purpose, as specified by the FDA. The sole purpose of the Food and Drug Administration is to regulate drug approval and make sure every drug is safe for people to use. However, the FDA has little say over how doctors actually prescribe the drugs.