Informed doctors should be judge of new drugs

By Freedom Newspapers

One of the most wondrous things about our world is how a single drug or chemical often can speed healing or recovery of the human body in a variety of ways. A drug might be developed and marketed for one condition, headaches for example, but also happen to have the ability to reduce tissue swelling, thin the blood or reduce the likelihood of heart attacks.

Additional treatment options with a prescription drug might not be discovered for years after it’s approved for sale, or its secondary benefits might affect such a small group of people that the drug manufacturer had no interest in pursuing it. American law has long recognized doctors should be able to take advantage of a drug’s bonuses to treat patients when they lack other options.

“Off-label” prescriptions can be risky, as medical boards and federal drug regulators want to prevent doctors from peddling narcotics to addicts or trying to “improve” already healthy bodies with drugs that have dangerous side effects. Doctors must be prepared to show they have a legitimate medical basis for prescribing an “unapproved” drug treatment, and that they have clearly informed a patient about any and all possible consequences. As long as these steps are followed, most medical experts defend a physician’s — and a patient’s — right to occasional “off-label” prescriptions.

Except, apparently, when it comes to human growth hormone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved the use of growth hormone to treat symptoms of aging, and “off-label” prescriptions in this case are illegal. A federal investigation has targeted Scottsdale, Ariz., doctor Eli Hammer, who specializes in anti-aging treatments.

Other factors have arisen about Hammer’s practice that place his state medical license at risk. But the larger issue is why Hammer or any other doctor should be under attack for a legitimate use of human growth hormone.

Critics claim its benefits for older adults are fleeting at best, and there are some potentially harmful side effects. Still, the drug has many fans, including Hollywood celebrities and business CEOs, who claim it helps to keep their minds sharp and their bodies in better shape.

Caring doctors and informed patients should weigh the arguments about the growth hormone’s effectiveness and the lack of approval from the FDA, and decide if the potential rewards are worth it. The police power of government should be limited to making sure physicians aren’t deliberately misleading patients or haphazardly writing prescriptions.

Remember, the medical profession once dismissed the other uses of a headache medication we now know as aspirin.