NURS 6521 Off-Label Drug Use in Pediatrics

NURS 6521 Off-Label Drug Use in Pediatrics

NURS 6521 Off-Label Drug Use in Pediatrics

The use of off-label medications is a common practice in pediatric patients. The practice is associated with increased risk of harm to the patients because of inadequate evidence-based data on their use. Therefore, this paper examines circumstances that may lead to off-label prescribing to pediatric patients and safety strategies to be considered.


There are circumstances under which children should be prescribed off-label medications. One of them is a situation where the healthcare providers are managing unapproved disorder that does not have approved medications. In such cases, physicians prescribe medications that have proven effective among the adult populations for a similar disorder at a lower dose. The other circumstance is when the healthcare practitioners have in-depth understanding of the pediatric patients’ disease process and the effectiveness of off-label drugs. They prescribe off-label medications to benefit the patients while utilizing their professional judgment to improve the care outcomes in pediatric patients (van der Zanden et al., 2021). For example, physicians prescribe ketamine for pediatric patients admitted to the intensive care unit despite it not being a FDA-approved drug of choice for this population.


Healthcare practitioners should consider several strategies to ensure that off-label drugs are safe for children from

NURS 6521 Off-Label Drug Use in Pediatrics
NURS 6521 Off-Label Drug Use in Pediatrics

infancy to adolescence. One of the strategies is by relying on the existing evidence when prescribing the off-label medications. Practitioners should critique the evidence obtained from high-quality studies and use them to inform their prescription decisions when treating pediatric patients. The other strategy is by considering ethics of practice. The decisions to treat pediatrics with off-label drugs should be informed by the principles of ensuring safety, justice, and quality outcomes for the patients (García-López et al., 2020; Hoekstra & Dietrich, 2022).

The other strategy is considering the influence of patient factors such as age on the pharmacological processes of the drugs prescribed to pediatric patients. The pharmacodynamic and pharmacotherapeutic processes in adult differ from that seen in pediatric patients. Therefore, practitioners should make decisions such as lowering the dosage and frequency of off-label medications as compared to adult doses to ensure safety and quality outcomes (Hoon et al., 2019). Some of the off-label drugs that should be prescribed with care for pediatric patients include hydromorphone, ketamine, and dexmedetomidine, which can be fatal is poorly used.

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            In conclusion, off-label medications are largely used in pediatric patients. The use is attributable to the lack of adequate data on the efficacy of different treatments for pediatric conditions. Practitioners should consider strategies for ensuring safety in the prescription of off-label medications. In addition, they should make their treatment decisions based on evidence-based data and guidelines.


García-López, I., Cuervas-Mons Vendrell, M., Martín Romero, I., de Noriega, I., Benedí González, J., & Martino-Alba, R. (2020). Off-label and unlicensed drugs in pediatric palliative care: A prospective observational study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 60(5), 923–932.

Hoekstra, P. J., & Dietrich, A. (2022). First do no harm: Use off-label antipsychotic medication in children and adolescents with great caution. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(1), 1–3.

Hoon, D., Taylor, M. T., Kapadia, P., Gerhard, T., Strom, B. L., & Horton, D. B. (2019). Trends in off-label drug use in ambulatory settings: 2006–2015. Pediatrics, 144(4), e20190896.

van der Zanden, T. M., Mooij, M. G., Vet, N. J., Neubert, A., Rascher, W., Lagler, F. B., Male, C., Grytli, H., Halvorsen, T., de Hoog, M., & de Wildt, S. N. (2021). Benefit-risk assessment of off-label drug use in children: The bravo framework. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 110(4), 952–965.

Situations When Off Label Medications May be Used in Pediatrics

There are specific situations when medications in the regard of off-label medications can be given to children. For instance, whenever a drug which is meant to manage a particular condition has been used without demonstrable success, a physician can choose a different alternative to save the day (“Off-Label use of Medicines in Children,” n.d.). A physician may be compelled to prescribe a drug to a pediatric when a particular formulation is available in a different country in another possible scenario. Yet there are acute shortages in their areas of jurisdiction. On the other hand, the physician can make an importation request for a drug used in another country for adults but for children in their country (Allen et al., 2018). Examples of the off-label medications used in children include amoxicillin, used for different conditions, including otitis media. There are specific medications which are high risk and should be used with caution in paediatrics, including dopamine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and lorazepam (Czaja et al., 2015). The medication could cause pronounced psychological effects or even unforeseen death.

Strategies for Off-label Medications for Pediatrics

Whenever off-label medications are used in children, there ought to be strategies to ensure they attain the best possible outcomes with minimal adverse effects. More clinical trials should be considered but within the safety and ethical parameters in children to establish the efficacy of medications (Tefera et al., 2017). The healthcare providers, the nurses, physicians and pharmacists should have efficient reporting methods and address the occurrence of adverse effects in children, which would then enhance the use of the medications.




Allen, H. C., Garbe, M. C., Lees, J., Aziz, N., Chaaban, H., Miller, J. L., … DeLeon, S. (2018). Off-Label Medication use in Children, More Common than We Think: A Systematic Review of the Literature. The Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, 111(8), 776–783. Retrieved from

Czaja, A. S., Reiter, P. D., Schultz, M. L., & Valuck, R. J. (2015). Patterns of off-label prescribing in the pediatric intensive care unit and prioritizing future research. Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 20(3), 186–196.


Tefera, Y. G., Gebresillassie, B. M., Mekuria, A. B., Abebe, T. B., Erku, D. A., Seid, N., & Beshir, H. B. (2017). Off-label drug use in hospitalized children: A prospective observational study at gondar university referral hospital, northwestern Ethiopia. Pharmacology Research and Perspectives, 5(2), 304.