Some medicines are prescribed "unlicensed" or "off-label".
The terms off-label and unlicensed are interchangeable and carry the same meaning.
Before a medicine is made available to the public, the manufacturer of the new drug will rigorously test it to determine whether it's safe by conducting clinical trials.
Clinical trials test the drug's effectiveness at treating the condition it was conceived for. These trials can also identify any potential risks associated with taking the medicine, such as side effects.
If the trials are successful, and the drug is shown to be effective at treating the condition it was designed for, a licence can be granted by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The licence determines for which condition(s) the treatment can be used for, who can and cannot take it, how it should be stored and taken, and even which companies can manufacture the drug.
You can find this information in the patient information leaflet supplied with your medicine.
Off-label or unlicensed use of a drug is simply when a medicine is prescribed to treat a condition which it was not initially intended for, but may be effective.
If a doctor believes that the treatment will effectively treat your condition, and that the benefits outweigh any potential risks, they will prescribe the medicine off-label.
The doctor will inform you if a drug is being prescribed to you off-label and will make you aware of any potential risks associated with off label use.
When taking any unlicensed medication, it's important to always follow your doctor's advice.
You should never take a medicine off-label unless a doctor has deemed it suitable for you.
When our doctor prescribes a medicine off-label, they will make it their prerogative to inform you that they are prescribing the medicine off label, and of any side effects or risks attributed to prescribing the treatment off-label.
In some cases, the patient information leaflet may acknowledge off-label use-cases for the medicine you are taking. You should familiarise yourself with the information detailed in the leaflet and remain vigilant of any side effects during your course of treatment.