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The pharmaceutical company Cephalon is under investigation in three separate probes for promoting their drugs for off-label prescription by doctors. Off-label prescribing occurs when a drug is prescribed for a condition that the drug is not intended to treat. This occurs quite often as doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs at their own discretion, but it is illegal for a drug company to promote their drug for off-label uses.

Last week Cephalon issued “Dear Doctor” letters regarding their cancer pain medication Fentora. The so-called “Dear Doctor” letters were sent out in conjunction with the FDA to warn physicians and healthcare workers or the risks of prescribing Fentora for off-label use. The letters stem from the recent report of four deaths linked to off-label use of the powerful prescription painkiller.

Fentora is approved to treat so-called breakthrough pain, pain experienced despite regular pain medication, in patients with cancer who are already receiving and able to tolerate opioid therapy such as morphine or oxycodone.

Last year, an investigation by Connecticut’s attorney general found that Cephalon illegally promoted some drugs for uses for which they are not approved, including Actiq, Cephalon’s older cancer pain medicine.

This could prove to be a very dangerous association for Cephalon in the future.

For more information on this subject matter, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.

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