Off-label medicine use in children and adolescents: results of a population-based study in Germany
1 Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring, Robert Koch Institute, General-Pape-Str. 62-66, 12101, Berlin, Germany
2 Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117, Berlin, Germany
3 Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Paediatric Clinical Study Center, University Hospital Erlangen, Loschgestr. 15, 91054, Erlangen, Germany
BMC Public Health 2013, 13:631 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-631Published: 3 July 2013
Population-based self-reported data on off-label medicine use independent from health care provisions are lacking. The purpose of this study is to investigate off-label medicine use in children and adolescents in Germany in a non-clinical setting and to identify prevalence, determinants and spectrum of off-label medicine use.
Data were obtained from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) conducted by the Robert Koch Institute (2003–2006). 17,450 randomly selected children aged 0–17 years took part in the drug interviews. Of those, 8,899 took at least one medicine during the 7 days preceding the interview. Off-label medicine use was defined as the discrepancy between actual use and the intended use described in the summary of product characteristics. Off-label medicine use was stratified into off-label indication, off-label age, off-label over-dosing, and off-label under-dosing.
The prevalence rate of off-label medicine use among those who used medicines amount of is 40.2%. The prevalence rate is significantly higher in boys (41.4%), in children aged 3 to 6 years (48.7%), without migration background (40.9%), with high social status (42.5%), living in small (42.0%) and medium sized cities (41.6%), and with a poor parents rated health status (41.7%). 12,667 preparations (attributable in respect to off-label use) were taken by 8,899 children. 30% of the medicines have been used off-label. Off-label medicine use was highest in preparations of the ATC-class “C00 Cardiovascular System”. In all origins of medicine, all age groups and all ATC-classes under-dosing was the most frequent reason for off-label medicine use.
There is a considerable level of self-reported off-label medicines use in the general paediatric population. Further investigations are needed to examine in how far off-label medicine use is based on lack of knowledge or on empiricism in paediatric pharmacotherapy. Attention also needs to be paid to under-dosing which potentially exposes drug users to risks of side effects without the benefit of a therapeutic effect. Clinical trials for licensing of paediatric medicines, education of health care professionals, but also of parents and carers are needed to ensure the rational use of medicines.