Exploring multidisciplinary use of unlicensed medicines in primary and secondary care

Investigating the multidisciplinary use of unlicensed medicines across primary and secondary care from the perspectives of prescribers, pharmacists and patients

Gemma Donovan, University of Sunderland

Unlicensed medicines are medicines which have not undergone clinical trials, testing and evaluation associated with normal licensed medicines in the UK. They are usually used to manage specific patient needs that licensed medicines cannot meet.

There is very little published evidence about the use of unlicensed medicines, although the prescribing data suggests that some of these medicines are being prescribed when there are appropriate licensed medicines available, and that they are significantly more expensive than normal medicines. There is little understanding about what influences the decision to use unlicensed medicines and what checks and balances are in place to ensure they are used appropriately. In addition, it is unclear what information patients are given about unlicensed medicines, what their understanding is around these medicines, and how they feel about using them.

This study involved in-depth interviews and focus groups with prescribers, pharmacists and patients so that their beliefs around these issues could be fully explored. It is hoped that the results of the research will lead to the development of training materials for healthcare professionals, information for patients, and guidance on the use of unlicensed medicines. It may also inform the design of future interventions to deliver safe and effective use of these treatments.

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