Off-label prescribing to children: attitudes and experience of general practitioners

S Ekins-Daukes, Peter Joseph Benedict Helms, Michael W. Taylor, James Stuart McLay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To identify experience with and attitudes towards paediatric off-label prescribing in primary care
Method: A prospective questionnaire survey was sent to a sample of Scottish primary care practices (346 doctors in 80 general practices located throughout Scotland).
Results: Two hundred and two (58%) completed questionnaires were returned. Over 70% of GPs admitted to being familiar with the concept, and 40% to knowingly prescribing off-label. The most important sources of paediatric prescribing information were the British National Formulary (81%), personal experience (71%) and previous prescription notes (45%). The most common reason given by GPs for off-label prescribing was prescribing for a younger age than recommended, although prescribing data confirm that age is the least important and dose the most important reason for such prescribing. When asked to comment upon different causes for off-label prescribing, 80% of respondents expressed appropriate awareness of and concern for the described scenarios. Over 97% of GPs ranked development of paediatric formulations and clearer dosage information more highly than clinical trials as a means to reducing off-label prescribing.
Conclusions: Despite high levels of off-label prescribing in primary care in the UK, the majority of GPs claimed to be familiar with the concept, although less than half were aware of this common practice. A clear disparity between perceived and actual reasons for off-label prescribing was noted, possibly due to a reliance on personal experience, colleague experience or previous patient prescription notes as a guide to prescribing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-149
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number2
Early online date30 May 2005
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


  • off-label prescribing
  • child
  • primary health care
  • attitude
  • pediatric wards
  • drug use
  • primary care


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